Wednesday, September 22, 2004

BP & TJ: Prospectus profiles the most famous baseball surgery

I don't know exactly why this sort of thing fascinates me, but Baseball Prospectus has a great article detailing the Tommy John procedure. They also link to Kris Benson's web site, complete with pictures of his arm. And it's free, for all you fellow (meaning: I am one, too) cheapskates. Perhaps its because so many arms in the organization have gone down to injury, or because we hear a lot of talk about pitcher's injuries but not much actual information.

The one thing that the article doesn't go into much detail about--and that it says is a very important aspect--is the rehab process. I've gone through an elbow injury myself, complete with a rehab process, and though I didn't have surgery, I can testify that therapy on elbows can be both very helpful and painful.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Free Agents reminder

I'm happy to keep updating the Free Agents by Position list to include players that are rumored to be non-tender candidates. Please email me (see the email address in the sidebar to the left) if you read or hear any such rumors (with where you heard them, preferably).

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Section 101

I'll be the lone blogosphere dissident. The USS Mariner continues to bemoan the loss of the bullpen market due to the installation of "temporary" bleacher seats in center field (That's nine posts that I count so far). I don't really care that much.

Why? Because I enjoy baseball with some peanuts and a conversation with a friend or family member, not with a beer in a crowd of hecklers. I understand a lot of baseball fans like the beer and heckling, but not me, and I don't morn the loss of something I never wanted anyway.

Second, in my opinion, Safeco Field has some serious design shortcomings for a new facility, and I'm saying this having seen several ballparks. The addition of those bleachers in section 101 happened because the stadium has a serious lack of good outfield seats. Safeco is a large cavernous steel structure that somehow uses two thirds of the outfield for something other than seats, and there aren't fountains like we have here in KC at Kauffman stadium to make up for it. Just think of how the bullpens occupy the entire left field fence, and how many home runs are collected by the relief corps of the two teams instead of by fans. In dead center field above the batters eye, where fans might want to stop and watch, large steel plates block the view from the pedestrian walkway (the only place, I might add, where you can't see the field from that level). With so many outfield seats and views taken away from fans, it's that much more likely that seating expansion would attempt to address that gap.

(Just as an example, imagine if the bullpens ran lengthwise back from the outfield wall, instead of width-wise across it. In about half of the span of one of the current bullpens, you now have both bullpens, and you can use that space to put good seats right at the outfield wall.)

Granted: the installation of seats in the bullpen market area is a poor solution to a problem more fundamental to the stadium's design. I understand that a lot of fans had fun in the bullpen market, and I don't begrudge them that. I do think that it's a little silly trying to get more seats in the stadium when the fans aren't coming any more. But I'm having a hard time being too upset, because the Bullpen Market wasn't ever a place I hung out, so I'm not going to miss it if it goes away. I might even consider buying tickets to those seats.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Refuting Dayn Perry

Mike Thompson at the P-I Blog points us to Dayn Perry's argument that Ichiro is just good, but not an "elite" player. Read Perry's article, and you'll find, as I did, that he's conveniently ignoring some things:

Perry says that Ichiro doesn't hit for enough power for a right-fielder, but says his career OBP is "merely good." In other words, he chooses to compare Ichiro to other right-fielders when looking at his power, and at the entire league when it comes to his OBP. If we look at both statistics in the same context, we'll see that while Ichiro doesn't hit for as much power as some RFs, he has a clear advantage over other RFs in OBP.

Perry says that Ichiro's OBP isn't as impressive because most of it is because of his batting average. Here, he completely misses the point of preferring OBP to BA. Batting Average isn't bad, it's just incomplete. OBP is a more effective measure of offensive contribution, and Perry's argument essentiall says that more walks are preferable to more hits. I have yet to see anyone make a case for a high walk-to-hit ratio, and it would make more sense that hits are slightly more valuable for their ability to drive in runners. Ironically, Perry himself makes this case when he argues that Ichiro's infield hits decrease his value because they don't score runners. Would Perry prefer that those infield hits be walks? That's absurd!

Perry says that stolen bases aren't all that valueable. I'm aware that Bill James also thinks that stolen bases don't factor significantly into run-scoring, although my recollection is that James' argument is based on large sample sizes for teams. The James-influence philosophy of the Oakland A's, as profiled in Moneyball, is NOT that speed is irrellevant, merely that it is over-valued. If Dayn is going to count infield singles against Ichiro--a very case-specific criticism--then he also should count his stolen bases for him.

Let's combine these two problems: let us say that every stolen base for Ichiro is the same as if he hit a double instead of a triple. Therefore, each SB counts toward his total bases. Conversely, each time he is caught stealing, Ichiro makes an out and removes himself from the basepaths. Therefore, each Caught Stealing should be subtracted from both his total bases and the numerator (H+BB+HBP) of his OBP. (Notice that getting caught stealing is doubly bad.) If we adjust Ichiro's OBP and SLG accordingly, his marks this year are .397 and .507. His career adjusted marks are .364 and .487. Would this more typical OBP and SLG make Perry happier?

Finally, Perry bases a number of his arguments that Ichiro is in right field, and therefore his defense isn't as much of an asset. Fine. (By the way, this is exactly why Ichiro should have been in center field all year long.) But we should at least allow that Ichiro is a center-field quality outfielder. If Perry is arguing not about Ichiro's ability, but his actual contribution, then I suppose we should start introducing other context-dependant statistics, like RBI. It's not quite the same thing, but it's a fine point that Perry didn't bother taking the time to make.

I think perhaps the most absurd line I read was that OBP, when compared with batting average, "is the more evocative statistic." Ooooh, big words! I should note that Perry isn't wrong about everything, but he seems so bent on debunking the Ichiro myth, so to speak, that he uses sloppy arguments.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Free Agents by Position

For anyone interested, I've sorted potential free agents by position, and back-dated it so that it doesn't take up all the space on this page. Follow this link to see it, or the link on the sidebar to the right. My data is taken from Ken Bumbaco's list; he did all the footwork to compile the list of players, and I just re-sorted them.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Measuring Melvin Managing

Note: I had errors in my numbers the first time I ran this post. They've been corrected, and the conclusions have been modified accordingly.

Larry LaRue may have been the first local columnist to suggest it, but this sort of season begs the question: will Bob Melvin be fired? (LaRue says Melvin's firing is both guaranteed and undeserved.)

There isn' t a whole lot of consensus about objective ways to measuring managing effectiveness. How much is a won-loss record influenced by a manager? We can't measure how much a manager affects his players' productivity at the plate, on the mound or in the field. Any attempt at keeping records of strategic errors and converting them into runs-that-would-have-scored would be hopelessly speculative and subjective.

(If you don't want to read the details, skip to the bottom for the conclusions)

One tack may be to look at how efficiently an offense or defense operates, as Tom Tippett of Diamond Mind did after the 2002 season in this article. To sum that article up, Tom looked at how efficient teams were at converting total bases + walks into runs, and called it the Run Effiency Average (REA). Take the opponents numbers, and you measure how ineffiecient your team made your opponents. Tippet also took the widely-held view (within the sabermetric world) that Bill James' Pythagorean method is a good way to translate runs scored and runs allowed into expected wins . Using all these measures Tom attempts to answer this question: based on the raw offensive production of a team, how efficient were they at converting that into wins?

So I ran the numbers for the Mariners from 1999-2004, with the idea that one way a manager might have a measurable influence on a teams' performance is translating that teams raw numbers into wins. (I excluded the 2001 season, which I felt wouldn't give Melvin a fair shot, and I couldn't get TB allowed numbers for before 1998.) This should allow us to see how Melvin's teams compare to Piniella's at effiency. Here's a table comparing wins above expectation, using both the Pythagorean method, and the two Run-Effiency (offensive and defensive) methods:

Pythagorean WinsOffensive REA WinsDefensive REA WinsTotal Bonus Wins



1) Piniella's teams seem to have been consistently better at converting runs scored into wins.
2) This year's team has the most inefficient offense of any in recent history.

That's about it. Derek Zumsteg, among others, thinks the Pythagorean method is suspect, and so we might not want to put too much stock in those figures. If the Pythagorean method measures anything, it may overlap with REA expected wins. Tippet adds them together, but that may be faulty reasoning.

So does Melvin deserve to be fired? Well, he's got a lousy offense of which he's making poor use--which is what we'd expect with all the bunting. There are other factors which could contribute to ineffiency, of course--an out-making bottom of the order, for example--but there certainly isn't anything to support his cause. Given all the additional anecdotal evidence against him--making absurd bullpen substitutions, failing to pinch-hit in obvious situations, championing Willie Bloomquist and Ron Villone--I think's it's time ol' Bob was shown the door.

If there's an upside, it's that the last time the M's lost so many games to inneffiency (though that was on the defensive end), they rebounded and made the playoffs the next year. Of course, they also signed good free agents that year (Arthur Rhodes, Kaz Sasaki, and John Olerud). Ol' Bill needs to be given a quick exit, too, if this ship is going to right itself.