Tag Archives: Yankees

Felix vs. CC (vs. Price): Head-to-Head Park Factors and Other Miscellany

Well we’re almost in the post-season and we’ve got three very, very good pitchers, one of whom, though, is having a much better season than the other two.

CC Sabathia is getting some acknowledgment because of his wins. Quote Joe Morgan:

I think he’s always been in the race in my mind. I like what Felix Hernandez has done, but he has won only 12 games. People say that he doesn’t get support from his teamamtes, but guess what, every award is a team award. You can’t win the MVP without your teammates. Do we look at an MVP candidate and say his team didn’t give him a chance to drive in runs? The fact is that Felix has won 12 games and CC has won 20. It is harder to win in a championship environment in New York than in Felix’s situation. Just look at AJ Burnett this year. Felix has done a good job this year, but he’s not in the same difficulty level of pitching this year as CC.

Well ok then.

Let’s all take a second to remember how useless wins are as a stat for pitchers.

Good, you back now? Let’s continue.

There’s also this, which was an interesting reveal of ESPN fans’ minds.

The gist of stats is to see how good a player performed as an individual. The post-season awards are for individual awards. If you want a “best player on a good team award,” create it.

Frankly, yeah, 21 wins is a terrible reason to award the CYA. Here are those three pitchers and their respective stats. Guess which ones are which:

Player A: 249.2 innings, 2.27 ERA, 232 Ks, 70 BBs (3.31 K/BB), 3.06 FIP, 3.27 xFIP, 53.9 GB%
Player B: 237.2 innings, 3.18 ERA, 197 Ks, 74 BBs (2.66 K/BB), 3.55 FIP, 3.79 xFIP, 50.7 GB%
Player C: 207.2 innings, 2.73 ERA, 187 Ks, 79 BBs (2.37 K/BB), 3.44 FIP, 4.01 xFIP, 43.9 GB%

All three of them, interestingly enough, have a higher LOB% than their career rates by about 3-4%.

Player A seems like the easy winner for the Cy Young Award (that’d be Felix Hernandez). Player B (CC Sabathia) doesn’t have quite the stats or peripherals with 10 fewer innings and Player C (David Price) has almost 50 fewer innings.

Note that Felix easily has the best K-rate, BB-rate AND groundball-rate. That’s unbelievable.

But some detractors are saying “yada yada, AL East.”

If it were between CC and Price, I think I’d lean toward CC because of peripherals. That being said, let’s take a look at the comparison between facing the AL East and facing the AL West regularly.

CC Sabathia
34 games started
Average park factor: 101.4

Felix Hernandez
34 games started
Average park factor: 98.1

And then just for fun:

CC average pitches per inning: 15.1
Felix average pitches per inning: 14.9

So yes, Hernandez has had the benefit of better parks. Is that enough of a difference to account for AN EXTRA RUN per 9 innings? Hell no.

Felix’s ERA+ is still 174 while CC’s is 131.

Even if you count all runs, not just earned runs, Felix’ runs average is ~2.88. CC’s is ~3.49.

The difference between the line-ups that CC faced vs. the ones Felix faced are almost negligible. I want to go into further depth on the offenses of each team faced, but maybe another time. Long story short, people who bring up the AL EAST stuff forget that the AL East line-ups are significantly easier to face when you don’t have to face the Yankees. Alternatively, take out the awful Mariners’ line-up from the AL West, and it’s a much better offensive division. I don’t know how or why people consider divisions without considering a pitcher doesn’t have to face his own team.

With that in mind, it’s a pretty simple choice. Felix is a much better pitcher across the board, including line-ups, including park factors, including everything.

So there you have it. Felix is better. Hands down.

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Vazquez bad start != disparity in NL to AL East

These things are really hard to prove because any statistic cited within only one league is going to be off-set by the give-and-take relationship it has with its pitching/hitting/defense counterpart. Is a pitcher’s ERA low because he is that good or because the talent he’s facing isn’t that good? Pitching has been decidedly weak in the AL East the last year or so, but that could be because the offenses in the division are just awesome. And then, because the NL and AL don’t face each other that much, any data has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Vazquez pitched amazingly well last year and you’re suspicions about the AL-NL disparity are right, the NL doesn’t have the offensive prowess that the AL has. I think the AL has won interleague every year since like its inception and the AL has outslugged the NL to boot. But the difference isn’t so astronomically high that an NL Cy Young contender will flip leagues and suddenly become Carlos Silva.

And even if that were true, it would mean that any decent NL starter who got flipped to the AL East would be worse than Vazquez, and that’s false.

Here’s a few players who jumped onto the AL East ship in the last few years and have succeeded.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/millwke01.shtml AL West to AL East
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/o/ohmanwi01.shtml NL West to AL East
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/beltrad01.shtml AL West to AL East
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/drewj.01.shtml NL West to AL East

Now just pitchers from the NL East to AL East:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/soriara01.shtml
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/greggke01.shtml
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/beckejo02.shtml

AJ Burnett could go here too, but nobody likes AJ Burnett.

If you look at Vazquez’s peripherals, the stats that underlie a good or bad ERA, Vazquez is getting beat by some bad luck. His home run to fly ball ratio is at 22%, which is twice as much as the league’s standard rate, as well as Vazquez’s. For every five flyballs, he gives up one home run. The rest of the league gives up ten flyballs per home run. You may be thinking, “Well, maybe that’s just because he’s been that bad;” HR/FB rates are almost universally constant.  The more flyballs a pitcher gives up, the more likely he is to allow home runs.  Vazquez’s flyball ratio is way up from last year, which would explain some of the discrepancy, but the HR/FB rate is too high.

Vazquez’s BABIP is at a ridiculously high .349 (career .309) while his line drive percentage remains at career levels, so even if the ball does stay in the stadium, it’s somehow finding the grass more often than the outfielders mitt. His left on base % is at 62%, which is lower than both his career and the league’s averages (~73%), so runners on base are scoring more often than they should be. He’s suffering from the same problems that Justin Masterson and Cole Hamels are suffering from.

If you correct for these things, he’s still not great, but he’s not the worst pitcher in baseball.

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Idea: A third team in New York (New Jersey)?

On Friday, I posted this article about Rosenthal’s realignment proposals (lol) and in one of the proposals, he suggests a third team in New York (the New Jersey A’s) to dilute the financial power of the Yankees and Mets from other divisions.

I thought originally the reasoning was poor for a number of reasons, but Rosenthal’s not far off on the team.  The A’s have terrible attendance right now and their bid for a new stadium was shot down in the development stages.

New Jersey’s also not a bad spot. Although I don’t seem to have baseball TV markets by viewers available, there’s a lot of Yankees fans there. That this New Jersey team would dilute fans and revenue from the Yankees (who are, may I remind you, a national and international commodity, not a local one) and Mets, as Rosenthal suggests, is dubious. But that aside, there’s some merit to the argument of putting a third team there.

There’s a willing team, there’s a potential for a fan base, and there’s probably a good owner in New York that’s wanted to buy a team out there.  But there’s still more problems that arise.

My biggest concern is a baseball metaphysics question: how do you build a fanbase with two already great franchises in the Yankees and Phillies less than 80 miles away and the Mets?  The Mets were created to fill the void left from the Giants and Dodgers shipping west, so they already had that built in upon arrival and they still struggle to compete for fans with the Yankees.

At least when the Expos moved to Washington, there was precedent in the Senators and the Orioles were having some bad years. The market was ripe. For any team moving to New Jersey, any potential owner would be more attracted to leaching off revenue-sharing and a low payroll. I mean, why compete with the Yankees or Phillies when it’s easier to make money?  It seems like there’s more potential for a New Jersey team to be seen as a bastard step-child than a baseball team.

My second biggest concern is that it shifts a lot more balance to the east coast, making travel easier on the Atlantic seaboard and more difficult on the western teams.  There’s already a team from Texas in a West division, how much more unbearable would it be if a team as far west as Oakland moved as far east as possible?

Maybe the best option to add a New Jersey team is to add a 31st and 32nd team and put one of them there (and another in Riverside, which is surprisingly baseball’s largest “city” without a team).  Even then, it makes more sense to not have a New Jersey team.  Rosenthal seems to think it’d be good to dilute the Yankees’ fan base, but I think that’s a paradox.  As much as I hate to admit it, baseball’s success is due partly because of the Yankees’ success, not in spite of it. So why screw up a good thing?

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Advertising the big interleague series this year

Just went to Dodgers.com and found this:

Dodgers-Yankees rivalry "renewed"

Really looking forward to this, I have tickets reserved for at least one game already.

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PECOTA is probably wrong

This can’t be right.

Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA league standings projection system came out today and it’s all over the blagoblag.

The projections, which twice correctly predicted huge jumps in the standings in 2008 for the Tampa Bay Rays and 2006 for the Chicago White Sox, had a very bad year last year and another bad year might cause people to look to other projection systems or maybe ignore the process.

PECOTA uses an intriguing system.  Started by SABR legend Nate Silver, it mapped every career ever had by any player in history and then applied those career arcs to the players with similar production–like I said in an earlier post, baseball is fortunate enough to have such an enormous sample size to take from.  From there, it extracted what the likelihood of the player’s production would be–10% (bad), 50% (average for him) and 90% (way above average).  Then it takes those player predictions, combines them into a team’s total run production (and prevention on pitching and defense) and voila! You have your pythagorian win-loss record.

One reason why PECOTA had such a bad year in 2009 wasn’t because of bad luck–PECOTA projections do not account for injury, trades or other things that come into play during a season–it’s because it projected inaccurately.* Even by pythagorian record, the A’s and Angels were swapped. The Indians and the Diamondbacks just plain old stunk. Craig Calcaterra pointed out PECOTA predicted one of the most amazing seasons in history by a rookie catcher for Matt Weiters and they were pretty far off.

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How random the playoffs are

The 2009 NLDS game 2 against the Cardinals and Dodgers is on MLB Network right now.

If ever there was a good example of how random the playoffs are, it’s this game.  Dodgers lead series, 1-0.  Cardinals lead game 2, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning.  James Loney is up with two outs and hits a flare to left field. The ball is as good as caught by Matt Holliday and he loses it in the lights.  It bounces off his crotch.

Loney gets on second.  The game’s not over, though, and all they need is one more out.  Casey Blake walks.  Then Ronnie Belliard hits a soft line drive that, if it were hit in any other direction in the infield, would have been caught, but it just went right up the middle. A passed ball gets the runners to advance and Mark Loretta hits another soft liner into the outfield to win it.  Dodgers take game 2 and then take the series in game 3.

Holliday had 5 errors on the season–and even though we don’t like errors because they’re judgments, that was the definition of an error.  A replacement player in a vacuum would have caught that.  Plus, his aggregate UZR/150 over his career is positive, which makes it all that more weird.  Then a couple of walks and flare singles drop in and the Cardinals lose the game.

That dropped flyball was literally valued at 1 win.

Holliday’s performance, however, was not valued at -1 win because of that–he hit a home run earlier in the game and that is incredibly valuable.

This is anecdotal evidence, but what I’m trying to say is that dropped balls, passed balls, wild pitches and laughable fielding errors are part of the game.  That they happen in the post-season shouldn’t turn an otherwise good player into a goat.  Just ask Bill Buckner, Mickey Owen and Fred Snodgrass.

Obviously those events aren’t typical.  Baseball is also predictable–there’s a reason why the Yankees have 27 championships.  But let’s not forget that Davids do beat Goliaths for no other reason than dumb luck sometimes and success in the regular season does not guarantee success in the post-season.

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I sponsored Mickey Owen’s page.

First I found out it’s Mickey Owen and not Owens, then I sponsored Owen’s baseball-reference page.

Mickey Owen was the Brooklyn Dodgers’ catcher for a few years in the 1940s.  He wasn’t a particularly good hitter, but he was regarded as a good catcher, setting a record for most errorless fielding chances by a catcher with 508 perfect attempts in 1941.

So you can almost taste the irony that he’s remembered for a passed ball.

Game 4 of the 1941 World Series, Dodgers are down in the series 2-1 to the Yankees, who are in the midst of the Joe McCarthy era.  It looks like the Dodgers are gonna take game 4, up 4-3 in the ninth, to tie the series. Hugh Casey is in to close it out for Brooklyn.  He gets Johnny Sturm to ground out to second and Red Rolfe to ground out to the pitcher.  Tommy Henrich comes up for the Yankees and strikes out, which would have ended the game, but the ball gets past Owen and Henrich is safe at first. Joe Dimaggio singles. Charlie Kelley doubles.  Bill Dickey walks.  Joe Gordon doubles. Phil Rizzuto walks.  The inning finally ends when Hugh Casey gets the pitcher Johnny Murphy to ground out.  Yankees score four.  Murphy pitches the bottom of the ninth and shuts down Pee Wee Reese, Dixie Walker and Pete Reiser.

Yankees took game 5 with ease.  It was their ninth World Series in 12 appearances up to that point; their sixth under McCarthy, who would win eight total as a manager.

Just to add to the patheticness of it all, it was the Dodgers’ first World Series appearance since 1920 (those bums), while their main rivals, the New York Giants, had been to it seven times and won  three just in that same span.

Owen had a great sense of humor about it, even signing the ball that he dropped in his later years.  He played for the Dodgers for a few years after that until 1944, when he served his country in World War II.  After returning home, he found some work

I sponsored his B-R page for two reasons.  One, it was the beginning of the golden age of the Bums.  The Bum identity was created long before that, but 1941 was the first year of a string of World Series appearances featuring a core of players built by Branch Rickey, all losses until the magical 1955 World Series title. The Mickey Owen play was also so Bum-ish.  Imagine your team doesn’t make the World Series for 20 years (in an eight-team division) only to finally get to it and lose a deciding game because the catcher couldn’t snag strike 3.  Only the Dodgers could have lost a World Series on a passed ball–and only the Dodgers could have completely melted down the way they did.

Second, my grandfather Cy, who was working in construction in New York at the time, was listening to the game on the radio and heard it live.  After the game was over, he thought, “Well there’s somebody out there stupider than me” and became a Dodger fan for life.

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Filed under MLB history, World Series history