Tuesday, December 30, 2014

If I Had a Hall-of-Fame Ballot

Strikeout king Randy Johnson should make Hall-of-Fame in first year on ballot. 
(Photo credit: Ron Vesely, Getty Images)

There were three new Hall-of-Fame Inductees in 2014 - pitchers Tommy Glavine and Greg Maddux and first baseman Frank Thomas - but new candidates and many worthy holdovers still leave the 2015 ballot quite crowded.  The log jam is due largely to confusion and division on how to deal with players linked to the Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED).  There are 34 eligible players and writers can vote for up to 10 candidates.  Unless a voter favors a very small elite Hall of Fame, this makes it virtually impossible to fill out a ballot without leaving off some deserving names. I, of course, do not have a vote, but will fill my theoretical ballot here.

My selection process involves comparing players to their contemporaries, other players at the same position and current Hall-of-Fame members.  I value peak performance and career performance equally.  I use many traditional and advanced statistics, most of which can be found on Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.  Some of my favorites are plate appearances, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average, batting runs, wOBA,and WAR for hitters and innings pitched, ERA, pitching runs, strikeouts and WAR for pitchers.  I used multiple WAR statistics in my analysis, but any WAR cited below is Baseball-Reference WAR.

I do not bring PED use into my thought process.  The use of PEDs has been very widespread, not only in the 1990s and 2000's, but all the way back to the sixties and even further.  It is impossible to know which players stayed clean and which used and how much it affected their performance.  Eliminating or even judging players based on suspicion seems very unfair to me.  It also seems pretty obvious that the game turned a blind eye to the problem for many decades.  Thus, I consider PED use to have been part of the game and choose players solely based on their on-field performance.

Now, for my ballot:

Barry Bonds: He was the greatest player of his generation and is on a very short list of the best players ever.  You can't have a Hall of Fame without him.  

Roger Clemens: As with Bonds, the Hall-of-Fame would not make much sense if it excluded Clemens.  He is one of the five best pitchers in the history of the game.

Randy Johnson: He was one of the most dominant pitchers of any era finishing second all time with 4,875 strikeouts and posting 5 top of the 11 strikeout totals ever.  His career WAR of 104 was seventh best among pitchers.     

Pedro Martinez: Like Clemens and Johnson, Martinez is an obvious selection.  Martinez did not have as many great years as the other two, but his 86 WAR was 14th best ever and his 291 ERA+ in 2000 was the best in the history of MLB.    

Jeff Bagwell: Not on the same level as Bonds, but still a slam-dunk selection.  He is 21st all-time in Batting Runs and has a WAR comparable to Rod Carew, Joe Dimaggio and Pete Rose.    

Mike Piazza: Another automatic selection.  He is arguably the best hitting catcher ever leading all receivers in Batting Runs and Weighted Runs Created.

Mike Mussina: Might get overlooked because he never won a Cy Young award, but had a 123 ERA+ in over 3,500 innings and his 345 Pitching Runs was an impressive 13th all-time.

Alan Trammell: He was over shadowed by Cal Ripken and slick-fielding Ozzie Smith, but his 70 WAR is eighth all-time among shortstops.

Curt Schilling: He was arguably the best post-season pitcher ever, but was a lot more than that.  He had a 127 ERA+, 3,116 strikeouts (15th best ever), 81 WAR (21st best).  

Craig Biggio: The versatile Biggio scored more runs (1,844) than any second baseman ever and was second to Eddie Collins with 3,060 hits. He also had 291 home runs, 414 stolen bases and caught over 400 games.   

A voter can only check off ten names, but there are more than ten who deserve Hall-of-Fame status.  Other deserving Hall-of-Famers include Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, John Smoltz and Larry Walker.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Sabermetrics Book


 With the holidays approaching, I wanted to remind people about my book Beyond Batting Average.  I'm pleasantly surprised that the hard copy version of the book continues to sell pretty well without much promotion.  I can thank Google, Amazon, Twitter and a number of internet friends for that.     

Not as many people know about the less expensive e-book that can be purchased on Lulu.com.  You can purchase the e-book version of Beyond Batting Average for $4.00 on Lulu.  The hard copy version costs $14.00 (also available at Amazon). 

Beyond Batting Average was published in 2010 and I believe it is still the most up-to-date and comprehensive sabermetrics primer available. It is accessible to fans who are trying to learn sabermetrics and would like a more organized and broader presentation of the subject than you'll typically find on the internet.  My book serves as a good introduction to more advanced books such as The Book by Tom Tango, Mitchell Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin.

Some of my favorite reviews of Beyond Batting Average are listed below:

Dan Dickerson (Detroit Tigers broadcaster)

I really love Beyond Batting Average - it makes the cut for the "suitcase" library that I take with me on the road...definitely a handy resource

James Bailey Baseball America's Top Ten Books of 2010 

For fans who want to learn more about new sabermetric statistics, Lee Panas' "Beyond Batting Average" is a great resource that can easily be followed by any student of the game...
What the book does particularly well is explain complicated concepts in simple terms.   

Neil Paine (Baseball-Reference)

I have no doubt that you'll find it easy to keep up with the stats that Panas presents. I was also impressed with how comprehensively Panas covered each topic; on several occasions, he delved into metrics that even I would not have thought to include in the discussion. Simply put, after reading this, you will be able to converse about sabermetrics with pretty much anybody and hold your own.

Tom Tango (The Book Blog)

If you are a non-mathy guy, but want to understand sabermetrics better, then a huge thumbs up for this book. If you are pretty much comfortable with sabermetrics, but still not there yet (you haven’t run any of your own studies), then a regular thumbs up.

David Gassko (The Hardball Times)

There has not really been a comprehensive resource that explains all the sabermetric statistics you need to know in one simple package. Well, at least there wasn’t until Lee Panas published Beyond Batting Average. 

Dan Szymborski (Baseball Think Factory)

Panas hits all the basic issues quite well and seems to be very up-to-date on what measures are generally used by the statnoscenti of the internet, which is extremely helpful to people who want to jump in with both feet. The author is also very good at telling the reader where these stats can be found and has focused on stats that are readily accessible to the public.

Steve Slowinski (DRays Bay)

Lee's writing is clear and concise, but also quite engaging for a topic that can sometimes get quite nerdy and dull. If you're looking to learn more about sabermetrics and want a book to start you off on the right foot, this is a great book to look into. And even if you already know a good deal about sabermetrics, it's a really handy reference tool. I consider myself well versed in baseball statistics, but I learned a decent bit from the book and I'm sure that I'll be referring to it whenever I have questions over the course of the season. Thanks Lee, this is a keeper.

Justin Inaz (Beyond The BoxScore):

Lee Panas published a terrific sabermetric primer. It's extremely current, with great scope, and will be an awesome resource for those interested in learning more about sabermetrics--especially player valuation statistics. I'm linking to Tango's review of it, but you can find the book on Lulu. If I do my baseball class again next year, I'll probably assign Lee's book.

Toirtap (Walk Like A Sabermerician)

Lee's straightforward approach and knowledge will make it a good resource for those who are just getting into sabermetrics.

Kurt Mensching (Bless You Boys)

With his book, Lee gives the reader a step-by-step guide through how stats were developed and how to best apply them. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tigers' Most Memorable Hot Stove Moves of The Past 25 Years

There is not a lot going on right now in hot stove action, so I was just looking at the off-season moves of the last 25 years.  Transactions are always exciting, so I remembered 99% of them - even the obscure ones like selecting Todd Steverson in the 1994 Rule 5 Draft.

I decided to put together a list of the most memorable moves of the last 25 years.  By "most memorable", I don't mean "best".  Sometimes a move seems great at the time it's made and then turns out to be a bad one or an insignificant one.  I'm judging this by the my own memory of which moves excited or intrigued me most as they were made.  I chose one move (or two related moves) each year.  The list is below.  Keep in mind that 1989 (for example) indicates the move was made in between the last game of 1989 and the the first game of 1990.  

1989 - After a horrible 103-loss season, the Tigers acquired free agents Tony Phillips and Lloyd Moseby at the December Winter Meetings. It was a different world back then.  I was at graduate school at UConn and had no television or computer.  Even though the moves were officially made two days apart, I learned about both of them on the same day in the newspaper.  

1990 - Rob Deer was signed as a free agent the day after Thanksgiving when usually nothing is happening.  I knew his limitations, but he was an intriguing player and the timing of the deal made it memorable.  They later traded pitcher Jeff Robinson for Mickey Tettleton.  I should have liked that move more, but it just didn't have a big impact at the time.  It was another one that I learned about in the paper a couple of days after it happened.

1991 - This was a quiet off-season, but I'll go with the signing of outfielder Dan Gladden.  He was a bad player, but I remembered his grit in the Twins 1987 and 1991 championship seasons and I somehow believed that would help the Tigers. 

1992 - One of my favorite players - Kirk Gibson - returned the Tigers and he of course would make them a winning organization again.  

1993 - The Tigers signed pitcher Tim Belcher.  He was coming off a poor season, but he had quite a bit of past success and I was surprised the Tigers were able to sign him. He and another free agent acquisition David Wells were surely going to give the Tigers the winning pitching staff they lacked the last few years.  

1994 - Wow, I've got nothing.  How about selecting outfielder Todd Steverson in the Rule 5 draftt?

1995 - The move of the off-season didn't happen until spring training.  Pitchers Cade Gasper and Sean Bergman were traded along with Steverson to the Padres for catcher Raul Casanova, pitcher Richie Lewis and outfielder Melvin Nieves.  There was Todd Steverson creating more off-season excitement.  Plus, I knew that Casanova and Nieves would be two important building blocks of a future champion.  

1996 - One of the many Brad Ausmus deals was made during the winter meetings.  Ausmus went to the Astros along with Jose Lima, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski and Daryle Ward.  In return, the Tigers received Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones and Orlando Miller.  Boy, what a wheeler and dealer Randy Smith was.  The Tigers were finally in good hands.  

1997 - On expansion draft day, the Tigers moved Travis Fryman to Arizona for Matt Drews, Gabe Alvarez and Joe Randa.  I didn't care for that move, but it was memorable because of Fryman and the uniqueness of the expansion draft.  

1998 - The Tigers signed Dean Palmer.  I knew he wasn't that great and that the Tigers overpaid, but it was unusual for the Tigers to make such a high profile signing.  The later signing of Gregg Jefferies and trade of Luis Gonzales on the same day made me seriously question Smith's competency as a GM.  

1999 - This was a big one and it came very early in the Hot Stove season.  Juan Gonzalez, Danny Patterson and  Gregg Zaun came from the Rangers in exchange for Alan Webb, Fran Catalanotto, Francisco Cordero, Bill Haselman, Gabe Kapler and Justin Thompson.  All of that for ONE year of Juan Gonzalez? There was no longer any questions about the competency of Randy Smith.

2000 - Another big Brad Ausmus deal by Smith - Ausmus, Brocail, Nelson Cruz (no, not that Nelson Cruz) went to the Astros in exchange for Roger Cedeno, Chris Holt and Mitch Meluskey.  I actually liked that deal because Meluskey was going to be a stud.

2001 -  Juan Encarnacion and Luis Pineda were traded for Dmitri Young. 

2002 - Pitchers Mark Redman and Jerrod Fuell were traded to the Marlins for pitchers Rob Henkel, Gary Knotts and Nate Robertson.  Firmly in the internet era now, we knew ahead of time that Redman had been traded and I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out who they would get back.   

2003 - That was a fun off-season after a miserable regular season.  First they signed second baseman Fernando Vina and Rondell White as free agents, moves that inspired a press conference at the time.  Yeah, that was a different time.  Then they stole Carlos Guillen from the Mariners.  The most ,memorable move came in January though - the signing of Pudge Rodriguez.  The Tigers were a real organization again.  

2004 - Another big free agent signing in Magglio Ordonez.  Not quite as shocking as the Pudge signing, but still a big deal.

2005 - Signed Kenny Rogers.  Big free agent signings were becoming less exciting now.

2006 - Gary Sheffield from the Yankees for pitchers Anthony Claggett, Humberto Sanchez and Kevin Whelan. I was a Sheffield fan and liked this deal.  

2007 - The most memorable Tigers move of my lifetime - MIGUEL CABRERA. THE MIGUEL CABRERA came to the Tigers in an eight man-player with the Marlins.   I couldn't believe they were able to trade only prospects for the best young hitter in the game.

2008 - Finally a quiet off-season.  The biggest move was Matt Joyce for Edwin Jackson.  The most memorable thing about it was getting my unexciting blog posting linked by Rob Neyer.  He was apparently looking for a Tigers blogger who didn't like the trade and I fit that description.  

2009 - The Tigers lost Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson and acquired Phil Coke, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth.  I hated this deal at the time.  

2010 - Victor Martinez was signed. Some felt the Tigers overpaid, but I liked this signing.

2011 - Prince Fielder was signed.  It was hard to dislike what basically seemed like a gift from owner Mike Ilitch, but it didn't seem like a great fit and it appeared that the money could have been better spent.. 

2012 - The signing of Torii Hunter was the biggest move of a relatively tame off-season.

2013 - Fielder was traded for Ian Kinsler in what was seemed like a genius move by GM David Dombrowski

2014 - Is the Anthony Gose deal going to be their most memorable moment this off-season?  They also re-signed Martinez but that too predictable to be memorable.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tigers Defensive Improvement Could Be Worth Six Wins

Jose Iglesias should be a big part of an improved Tigers defense in 2015
(Photo credit: The Majors.net)

Fielding has been a sore spot for the Tigers for the past few years.  Some might say a gaping wound. According to the Defensive Runs Saved statistic, poor defense cost the Tigers -32 runs in 2012, -66 runs in 2013 and -64 runs this year (See Tale 1 below).

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski tried to address the issue last year with the additions of second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Jose Iglesias, the subtraction of first baseman Prince Fielder and shift of Miguel Cabrera from third base to first base.  His plan was derailed in spring training when it was learned that the slick fielding Iglesias would miss the entire season due to stress fractures in both shins.  It got even worse when rookie third baseman and veteran right fielder Torii Hunter performed worse than imagined in the field.

Once again, the Tigers are looking to shore up a defensive unit which cost them an estimated six wins compared to an average defense in 2014.  As it stands now, the major additions will be a healthy Iglesias at shortstop and recently acquired center fielder Anthony Gose.  The most significant subtraction looks to be Hunter in right field.

It's still early in the off-season, but here is how the Tigers are looking position by position at this time:


2014: -7 runs.  The addition of David Price ( +1 from 2012-2014) and possible subtraction of Max Scherzer (-4 from 2012-2014) could save five runs.  Of course, they would be a better team with Scherzer than without Scherzer, but this post is only about defense. 2015 Projection: -2 runs.


2014: +2.  Alex Avila's base stealing prevention numbers improved last year thanks, in part, to an emphasis on pitchers delivering the ball quicker to home plate.  He was also better at blocking pitches.  Even if he continues to miss time with concussions and other injuries, they should have a more capable backup than Bryan Holaday this year in Brian McCann. 2015 Projection: +2

First Base

2014: -6  Cabrera rated better on other defensive measures and was good in the first half when healthy, but struggled later with injuries.  Assuming better health for Cabrera and less field time for designated hitter Victor Martinez, they should be at least average at the position next year.  2015 Projection: 0

Second Base

2014: +21 Kinsler was the only well above defender on the team this year.  He might regress a bit next year, but should still be strong.  2015 Projection: +15  

Third Base

2014: -32 Castellanos was a butcher at third last year, but he was also asked to make a position switch for the second time in two years.  He'll never be a good defender, but he's bound to improve a little bit. 2015 Projection: -25


2014: -9 The combination of Alex Gonzalez, Andrew Romine and Eugenio Suarez not only didn't provide much offense, but they also were below average defensively as a group.  Assuming Iglesias is truly healthy enough to play a full season, he should be a substantial improvement at shortstop. 2015 Projection: +10.

Left Field

2014: -4 Once J.D. Martinez settled into left field, it became mostly an offensive position for the Tigers this year and the same should be true next season.  2015 Projection: -4

Center Field

2014: -7 Austin Jackson was a disappointment offensively and defensively in 2014.  Speedsters Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis should give the Tigers above average defense in center next year. 2015 Projection: +5 

Right Field

2014: -22 One-time defensive standout Torii Hunter seemed to be indifferent at times last year and just old and slow in other instances and the results were awful.  It will be addition by subtraction defensively in right.  I'm not sure the Tigers are done dealing with this position, but the current combination of Tyler Collins, Davis and Steven Moya should provide close to average defense.  2015 Projection: 0

The above projections sum to +1 meaning the Tigers defense should be about average in 2015.  In fact, the defense appears to be about six wins better right now than it was last year.  As it stands now, the batting order and rotation might not be as strong as in 2014, but if they don't win as much next year, it probably won't be because of fielding.

Table 1: Tigers Defensive Runs Saved 2012-2015
2015 (proj)
Data source: BillJamesOnline.com

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Alex Gordon, Christian Yelich Saved Most Runs In Left Field

Christian Yelich excelled in left field for the Marlins in 2014
(Photo credit:Zimbio.com)

In previous posts, I looked at the Revised Zone Rating (RZR) and Out-of-Zone Plays (OOZ) metrics listed at FanGraphs.  Links to these posts are provided below:
Now, I'm going to to do the above conversion for left fielders.  Table 1 below contains the following information for left fielders with 800 or more innings in 2014: 
  • Inn = Innings
  • RZR = Revised Zone Rating
  • OOZ = Out-of-Zone Plays
  • PIZAA =  Plays in Zone Above Average
  • OOZAA = Out-of-Zone Plays Above Average
  • PMAA = Total Plays Above Average
  • RSAA = Runs Saved Above Average
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon was the MLB leader in RSAA (+23) followed by Christian Yelich of the Marlins (+22).  Both outfielders were better on out-of-zone plays than in-zone plays: Gordon (+24 PIZAA, +4 OOZA) and Yelich (17, 10).

The worst left fielder according to these metrics was Domonic Brown of the Phillies with -19 RSAA.  He was +1 on plays in the zone, but -23 outside the zone.  

Two Tigers outfielders had positive results playing less that 700 innings in left field: Rajai Davis (+8 RSAA) and J.D. Martinez (+4).  Keep in mind though that defensive measures are not reliable with small sample sizes.

Table 1: Runs Saved by MLB Left Fielders According to RZR, OOZ, 2014
Alex Gordon
Christian Yelich
Dustin Ackley
Khris Davis
Alejandro De Aza
- - -
Brett Gardner
Matt Holliday
Yoenis Cespedes
- - -
Chris Coghlan
Starling Marte
Justin Upton
Corey Dickerson
Michael Brantley
Melky Cabrera
Domonic Brown
Data source: FanGraphs.com


Blog Archive


My Sabermetrics Book

My Sabermetrics Book
One of Baseball America's top ten books of 2010

Other Sabermetrics Books

Stat Counter