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Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Pie and Fish

Today in my column on Baseball Prospectus I answered a couple reader questions in relation to topics from previous weeks. The first question revolved around the repeatability of the baserunning metrics I've developed while the second looked at the Fish, Eye, Square, and Badball metrics using PITCHf/x data from the pitcher's rather than the hitter's perspective. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Incremental Advancement

My column this morning on Baseball Prospectus introduces a fifth baserunning metric to add to the list I discussed last summer. This one was inspired by Bill James' look at baserunning in last year's Bill James Handbook. Specifically the new metric dubbed Equivalent Other Advancement Runs (EqOAR) looks at wild pitches, passed balls, balks, and plays designated as "out advancing".

The methodology is at its core the same as the other metrics in that it is based on run expectancy matrices and is based not only on the change in run expectancy created by these events but also the number and context of the opportunities the runners have.

In the end it appears from my initial look that the normal seasonal range for individual players is +2.5 runs to -2.0 runs. In other words, a runner who not only doesn't get thrown out but ends up with more advancements per time on base (the assumption being that in the long run all runners have approximately equal opportunities to advance) will contribute two and half runs over and above what would have been expected.

As a small preview here are the leaders and trailers for the past two seasons.

Player Year Adv AdvOpps Opps EqOAR
Juan Pierre 2005 15 15 438 2.93
Angel Berroa 2005 10 10 306 2.65
Tony Graffanino 2005 13 13 309 2.61
Mark Teahen 2005 12 12 247 2.03
Terrence Long 2005 7 7 236 1.99
Brent Abernathy 2005 0 1 29 -1.19
Tadahito Iguchi 2005 6 8 300 -1.24
Ben Broussard 2005 0 1 208 -1.38
Michael Cuddyer 2005 4 5 236 -1.53
Michael Young 2005 1 2 404 -1.64

Player Year Adv AdvOpps Opps EqOAR
Freddy Sanchez 2006 15 15 383 2.14
Damian Jackson 2006 5 5 61 1.94
Grady Sizemore 2006 16 17 466 1.94
Alex Gonzalez 2006 5 5 199 1.80
Orlando Hudson 2006 9 9 321 1.70
Sean Casey 2006 1 2 229 -1.31
Matt Holliday 2006 6 7 334 -1.35
Josh Barfield 2006 2 3 313 -1.40
Eric Chavez 2006 2 3 265 -1.67
Nick Johnson 2006 6 10 388 -1.76

Overall, there is little year to correlation on an individual basis although a definite pattern emerges when totals are aggregated over multiple years and at seven years (2000-2006) Juan Pierre emerges as the leader (+6.12 runs) while Paul Konerko brings up the rear (-4.81 runs).

Friday, September 14, 2007

More Fish/Eye

My column this week on Baseball Prospectus included a return of the Fish/Eye chart I built to illustrate the continuum of plate discipline. I've added a new metric this time called Square which tracks the percentage of pitches in the strike zone swung at and made contact with. A high value here (relative to the average of over 87 percent) indicates that when the batter offers at a strike he usually makes contact. On the contrary, a lower value indicates hitters who, for reasons such as a long swing, are more apt to swing through strikes. In any case, I also relate this metrics to Wily Mo Pena and my discussion from a previous column.

Several readers have alerted me to the fact that the group charts I showed cut a few players off at the edges. New charts coming soon...

Update: I posted new charts and some additional information about performance by quadrant on BP's Unfiltered blog.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gameday Video

There is a very nice video that explains a bit about the PITCHf/x system over on the Gameday blog. In other PITCHf/x news Joe P. Sheehan has another nice article on sinkers over at Baseball Analysts and tomorrow my column will take another look at plate discipline. And of course anyone interested in this topic should be keeping up with Mike Fast and the work he's doing over on his blog. In particualr he beats me to the punch and uses the approximations given by Dr. Nathan to start calculating spin direction and spin rate. Very cool.

Rox Use 10

Last Friday night I scored the Rockies/Padres game at Coors Field for and was "treated" to the site of manager Clint Hurdle using ten different pitchers in a nine inning Rockies win. That effort set the National League record and tied the major league record first set by the Orioles on September 12, 2004 versus the Yankees.

Below is my score sheet for the game with the plethora of pitchers (click for a larger view)...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Wily Mo Redux

My column this week on Baseball Prospectus takes a second look at the fortunes of Nates outfielder Wily Mo Pena. I had written about Pena back in March of 2006 and readers had been asking for an update. Wily Mo fans might not like what they read.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Integration, Ruth, and Cobb

In relation to my column last week on measuring the increasing level of play, Cyril Morong alerted me to this post on Beyond the Boxscore that attempts to quantify the affects of integration. The method he uses centers on replacing a certain percentage of the worst players in the pre-integration era (1906-1946) with better players as the pool from which players were drawn was increased thereby pushing out the worst performers.

The end result is Ruth with 678 homeruns and Cobb with a batting average around .354 although it should be noted that this assumes that integration was a given from the start and did not ramp up slowly.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Enough Said

My daughters and I attended the last Sky Sox home game of the year last Sunday afternoon at Security Service Field. A great day highlighted by the return to the ballpark of Sox executive Rai Henniger who was injured in a fireworks accident in May.

The picture shows how nice a day it was...

The Majestic Mangonel

So last night my wife discovers that on Tuesday my 6th grade daughter is to have created a catapult or trebuchet for science class, much to my surprise.

Although there weren't many parameters other than that it had to fire a golf ball into a newspaper wall and be about 2 feet tall, we Googled a little to see what we were up against. What we discovered was that there are a few sites that sell plans and a few others that show photos and so we worked from there. In the end we decided to base our catapult on a design called the Mangonel (from the Greek word "magganon" meaning an engine of war) which was descended from the Roman onager (Greek for "wild ass" nicknamed as such because it kicked like a mule when discharged).

In any case we spent about an hour last night planning and then three and half more this morning completing the project and thought we should provide some instructions for those like us who might need to do something similar in the future.

In order to provide the force the mangonel relies on torsion from a twisted cord in which the arm is inserted. We decided to use one of those black rubber straps used to fasten items to a car carrier. We replaced the metal hook with a small drill bit and threaded the bit through both ends of the strap creating a loop.

For the base we used some 3.5" by .5" boards and cut two of them 24" in length. We then drilled a 1 1/8" hole 10" from one end in both boards. After measuring the length of the strap when pulled taught we cut two more boards 16.25" in length. After screwing them all together we had our frame.

When the arm is released it's stopped by a pad and so we simply put one more board on top and fastened another 13" board in the center and used a rubber band to secure a bit of foam to the top.

Finally, we added two boards to the bottom so it would sit up a little along with cardboard wheels to give it that historical touch.

To load the catapult we ran the strap through one of the holes pulling it taught at the end with the drill bit. It took a little force but together we were able to pull the loop end through the other hole and slide a stick of sun block in it. Now the strap (or skein in the technical sense) is pretty tight. From there we slid the arm, which was a wood strip about 1.5" wide and cut to 18", into the middle of the strap at the center. By twisting the drill bit on one side and the stick of sun block on the other you can then create the tension in the strap. After about 8 turns we found the sun block would start turn back so we added a small piece of wood to the top that can be turned to stop it from twisting backwards. At this point the arm wants to swing forward and so we put two nails in the board on which the arm rests and a rubber band between them to hold it down and act as the trigger.

On the arm itself we created a small cardboard cup in which the golf ball rests and used duct tape to secure it.

All that's left is to load the golf ball and fire by releasing the rubber band and the arm swings up and releases the ball as it hits the padded board. It doesn't fire as hard as I had imagined and ends up propelling the ball about five feet on a line. Of course, the more you twist the strap the more force you get.

The Stretch Run

If you're a Cubs fan life is pretty good. Despite a 6-1 loss to the Astros last night, as we head into September the team is in first place in the central division and although the Cardinals have looked stronger in the past month, little about the Redbirds or the Brewers is particularly scary. In addition Alfonso Soriano is back from the DL, Cliff Floyd from the berevement list and both Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, who together have supplied much of the offense, are apparently healthy and on the field. Carlos Marmol continues to mow down opposing hitters and Rich Hill and Carlos Zambrano continue to be mostly effective.

So in celebration of entering the final month in first here is the complete list of other occasions on which the Cubs found themselves tied or in first at the close of September 1st along with their record on that day and a comment on each season.

Year W L T Pct Comments
1989 75 59 0 0.560 Win the division and then dispatched by Will Clark
1984 81 54 0 0.600 Win the division and then …
1945 76 47 1 0.618 Lose to the Tigers in a 7-game WS
1929 84 41 4 0.672 Win 98 games but lose to the A's 4-1 in the WS
1918 83 44 2 0.654 Lose to Ruth's Red Sox in the WS
1914 63 57 2 0.525 Fade to 78-76, 16.5 games behind the Miracle in 4th place
1912 79 43 1 0.648 Finish 91-59 but finish 11.5 games behind the Giants in 3rd place
1909 80 38 1 0.678 Win 104 games but Wagner's Pirates win 110
1907 89 33 1 0.730 Win 107 and beat the Tigers in the series
1906 92 31 3 0.748 116 wins but lose in the WS 4-2 to the White Sox
1904 69 46 3 0.600 Go 93-60 but finish 13 games behind the Giants

Yes, just twice in my lifetime has it been the case that the Cubs weren't looking uphill or in many cases up a sheef cliff face as the calendar turned. In fact, this season marks just the 20th time the Cubs have had a .500 record or better on September 1st since 1945 and the fourth time this decade. So while there is always a feeling of impending doom in the soul of a Cubs fan, today is a good day and we'll leave it at that.