Saturday, June 30, 2012

How Bad has Brennan Boesch Been This Year?

A poster at MotownSports.com (TigerBomb13) asked today who had the most negative Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ever and was wondering whether Tigers right fielder Brennan Boesch had a chance to fall that far.  According to Baseball-Reference.com, there have been two players with -4.1 WAR since 1901: Jim Levey of the St. Louis Browns in 1933 and Jerry Royster of the Atlanta Braves in 1977.

How bad was Levey?  He batted .195/.237/.241 with a 24 OPS+ while playing 152 games at shortstop.  He actually did not lose any points for his defense (+0.1 defensive WAR) but he was so horrible offensively and played so much that he still hurt his team enough to be tied for number one.  Not only does Levey share the top (bottom) spot on this list, he also had the seventh worst WAR ever in 1931.

Royster was a little better offensively than Levey batting .216/.278/.288 with a 46 OPS+ as a utility infielder/outfielder.  You would think that a player who played five different positions would be a valuable piece on a roster.  Unfortunately, he did not play any of those positions well and accumulated -2.0 WAR with his defense alone.  Royster was not always that bad and managed to build a 16-year career getting as much as +2.1 WAR with the Padres in 1985.    

Boesch has not yet reached the depths of Levey and Royster, but is currently last in the majors with -1.8 WAR thanks to a .232/.269/.346 batting line and a 67 OPS+.  As awful as he has been offensively , he has been just as bad defensively costing his team an estimated 10 runs with his glove.

Boesch probably won't play enough to challenge Levey and Royster if he continues at the same pace, but has a legitimate shot of breaking the Tigers record.  Jerry Morales accumulated the most negative WAR ever with -2.7 in 1979.  Boesch is seventh on the list and the worst in the past four decades. 

I don't want to single out Boesch for all the Tigers struggles this year though.  After all, Tigers fan favorite Ryan Raburn is in the bottom 20 with -1.5.  In case anyone was wondering, Delmon Young is looking pretty good in comparison at -0.8.  That's -4.1 WAR from just three players which tells us a lot about the Tigers season.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Rays Go Solo on Justin Verlander

This one was billed billed as a classic pitchers duel between two aces - right hander Justin Verlander for the Tigers and southpaw David Price of the Rays.  It did not quite turn out that way as Verlander was not sharp tonight and the Rays won 4-2.  Tampa Bay cracked three solo home runs off Verlander, two by left fielder Desmond Jennings and one by right fielder Ben Zobrist.

It took Verlander 120 pitches, but he continued his well-publicized streak of six or more innings per start.  He now has 59 consecutive starts of six or more innings, the fourth longest such streak since 1918 (the first year full seasons of box scores are available).  Tonight he passed Hall-of-Fame right hander Walter Johnson.  The only three ahead of Verlander are Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, and Catfish Hunter, who did their work in the 1980s or earlier.

The Tigers hitting star was designated hitter Delmon Young, who had a solo homer and a single in three trips.  Young now has 9 hits in his last 26 at bats over a span of six games.  The only other Tigers run came on a double by Ramon Santiago and two ground ball outs in the seventh.

The loss leaves the Tigers 4 1/2 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central.  With the White Sox up 13-7 late over the Yankees tonight, it could be up to five by the end of the night.  If the Tigers want to win any championship trophies in 2012, they better get moving soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How is Alex Avila Doing Defensively?

Tigers catcher Alex Avila is battling tendinitis in his knee and is not hitting as well as he did in 2011.  However, based on observation, his defense seems not to be suffering too much.  In this post, I will take a close look at the numbers.

The system used to evaluate catchers is complex and I'm not going to rehash the whole thing here.  If you want to see the details, you can read my earlier article.  I do want to give credit to others who inspired me with similar work in the past:  Sean Smith, Justin Inaz, Matt Klaasen and Mike Rogers.

First, remember that less than three months of defensive data is a relatively small sample size so you should use caution in interpreting the results.  Also keep in mind that these numbers do not capture everything that a catcher does.  For example, they say nothing about game calling or understanding of pitcher abilities and tendencies. I am only going to evaluate catchers based on what we can most easily measure - controlling the running game, pitch blocking and avoiding errors.

Table 1 contains data for all catchers with at least 300 innings through June 26.  That covers almost all of the starting catchers in the majors.  The CSRuns column gives us an estimation of how many runs each catcher saved/cost his team compared to the average catcher by controlling the running game.  It is based on stolen bases against and caught stealing.  Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero is the MLB leader with an estimated 6.7 runs saved over an average catcher.  Avila is tenth with 2.1 runs saved.  A negative sign before a number indicates that a catcher cost his team runs.  The worst receiver in this category is Rod Barajas who has cost the Pirates an estimated -5.9 runs. 

The next column (WPPBRuns) tells us how many runs catchers saved/cost their teams with pitch blocking or preventing passed balls and wild pitches.  Number one is Orioles backstop Matt Wieters with 3.5 runs saved. On the other hand, Wilin Rosario has cost the Rockies about four runs (-3.7).  Just like last year, Avila is a little below average on this statistic costing the Tigers  between one and two runs (-1.5) with pitch blocking.

The TERuns column tells us about throwing errors.  There is not a lot of variation between catchers here, but Phillies receiver Carlos Ruiz leads with 0.8 runs saved.  Conversely, Rosario has cost the Rockies -1.1 runs on throwing errors.  Avila is right around average (-0.2). 

The FERuns column indicates how many runs catchers have saved/cost their teams with fielding errors.  Again, there is not a of of variation.  There are three catchers tied with 0.5 runs saved.  The worst is Mets catcher Josh Thole (-1.2).  Avila is slightly above average on this measure saving the Tigers 0.3 runs.

The final column (CatchRuns) is the sum of the previous four columns.  It tells us how many runs catchers saved/cost their teams on the above items combined.  The leader is Montero who has saved Arizona more than nine runs (9.4).  The worst is Barajas who has cost the Pirates five runs .  Avila has saved the Tigers almost one run (0.7) with his defense.  That ranks him 13th among 26 qualifiers.

In summary, Avila has been good at controlling the running game and avoiding fielding errors and a little below average at pitch blocking and throwing errors.  Overall, he is in the middle of the pack among major league catchers defensively.


Table 1: Catcher Runs Saved/Cost through June 26, 2012


Player
Team
Inn
CSRuns
WPPBRuns
TERuns
FERuns
CatchRuns
Miguel Montero
ARI
517
6.7
2.2
-0.0
0.4
9.4
Carlos Ruiz
PHI
506
4.4
2.7
0.8
-1.1
6.8
Ryan Hanigan
CIN
393
3.3
3.3
-0.2
0.3
6.7
Matt Wieters
BAL
549
2.7
3.5
-0.8
-0.0
5.3
Kurt Suzuki
OAK
529
3.0
1.3
0.3
0.5
5.0
Yadier Molina
STL
562
2.3
1.4
0.3
0.5
4.4
John Buck
MIA
484
0.5
2.4
-0.6
0.4
2.7
Brian McCann
ATL
466
1.0
0.8
0.7
-0.1
2.4
Nick Hundley
SDP
451
2.4
0.3
-0.1
-0.1
2.4
Humberto Quintero
KCR
355
2.4
0.3
-0.8
0.3
2.2
A.J. Ellis
LAD
524
2.9
-1.0
-0.0
-0.0
1.8
Buster Posey
SFG
462
-0.6
2.1
-0.4
-0.1
1.1
Alex Avila
DET
389
2.1
-1.5
-0.2
0.3
0.7
J.P. Arencibia
TOR
494
1.4
-1.1
-0.1
-0.1
0.1
Jonathan Lucroy
MIL
322
-0.7
0.8
-0.3
0.3
-0.0
Josh Thole
NYM
363
-0.7
1.0
0.3
-1.2
-0.7
Jesus Flores
WSN
363
-0.8
-1.0
0.6
0.3
-0.9
Mike Napoli
TEX
371
-1.4
-0.1
0.3
-0.2
-1.4
Russell Martin
NYY
480
-0.1
-2.1
0.5
0.4
-1.4
Carlos Santana
CLE
436
1.9
-3.5
-0.4
0.4
-1.6
A.J. Pierzynski
CHW
530
0.3
-3.2
0.3
0.5
-2.2
Jose Molina
TBR
332
-1.6
-1.6
-0.3
0.3
-3.2
Wilin Rosario
COL
370
0.9
-3.7
-1.1
0.3
-3.6
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
BOS
444
-3.3
0.3
-0.4
-0.6
-4.1
Jason Castro
HOU
378
-2.3
-1.9
-0.8
0.3
-4.7
Rod Barajas
PIT
430
-5.9
0.4
0.1
0.4
-5.0


Data Source: Baseball-Reference

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