Saturday, November 29, 2003

Update on the Pups 

John Sickels answered some mailbag questions today in Down On The Farm, one of them regarding Mets prospect Victor Diaz. You can read that article here. He also wrote about Mets third-base stud David Wright the other day.

Friday, November 28, 2003

What's Your GPA? 

Earlier this week, Aaron Gleeman introduced a new metric that he quasi-narcissistically calls GPA, or the Gleeman Production Average. While hardly perfect (what metric is?), GPA serves a definite purpose in the sabermetric community. Though it is not as accurate as EqA, it is far simpler to calculate, and is a bit of an upgrade over OPS (OBP + SLG).

OPS, while clever and easily-derivable, has a major inherent flaw. It assigns equal weight to on-base percentage and slugging percentage, when it is quite clear that OBP is the more valuable asset. The most basic example to this effect is the following:

Team A and Team B both have an OPS of 1.000. Team A has an OBP of 1.000 and a SLG of .000 (meaning they walk every plate appearance), while Team B has an OBP of .333 and a SLG of .666 (they get a double for every three at-bats). In this scenario, Team B will score an awful lot of runs. Team A, however, will score an inifinite number of runs, as they will never make an out (barring baserunning gaffes). So, while both teams have an identical OPS, their production is significantly different.

Granted, this is an extreme example, but it does get the point across that OBP is more important to a team than SLG. But how much more important? Tangotiger, one of the more prominent sabermetric minds on the internet, wrote a couple of articles (this one and this one), where he breaks down the importance of OBP relative to SLG. He concluded that OBP is roughly 1.7-2.0 times more important than SLG.

Aaron decided to use 1.8 as the multiplier, and, in an effort to make the result more recognizable, divided the whole lot by four, to force a scale similar to batting average. So, the formula for GPA was born:

[(OBP * 1.8) + SLG] / 4

Aaron has posted a quick reference guide which provides 2003 GPA rankings by league, team, and position. Based on Aaron's work, I have put together a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet based on ESPN.com's Sortable Stats for all qualified MLB batters in 2003. The spreadsheet contains all of the regular hitting statistics (AB, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, CS, BB, BA, OBP, SLG, and OPS), as well as a column for GPA. I have also included a column for the team and for the league, so you can sort by those as well. The spreadsheet can be downloaded here (*fixed*). All qualified batters are included which, as defined by ESPN, are all position players who appeared in two-thirds of their team's games, and catchers who appeared in half of their team's games.

If you have any suggestions for improvements to the spreadsheet (i.e. additional columns), please let me know. I hope to have a spreadsheet including all players who appeared in MLB games this season soon, not just qualified players.

A brief tutorial on sorting in Excel can be found here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Zito is Neato ... But Overrated 

My blogging colleague Michael of Michael's Mets Ramblings commented today on a recent article by Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus. I haven't read the whole article, since I can't afford $39.95 for a subscription to BP. However, here is the excerpt from Michael's post. If anyone would like to sponsor a BP subscription for me, I would be happy to provide additional commentary on some of their great articles.

Honestly, I think the A's traded the wrong left-hander. Lilly is a decent
pitcher who is unlikely to be a star, and well-suited to the big outfield in
Oakland. He's not very highly regarded, which you can probably tell by his
being dealt straight up for Bobby Kielty. The A's got in the trade about
what Lilly is worth.

The key in trading, though, is to swap a player whose perceived value is
greater than his actual value, taking advantage of that gap to come out of a
trade with more talent than you had before. Right now, there are few players
in the game for whom the gap between perception and reality is greater than
Barry Zito. Zito is just one year removed from a Cy Young Award, but he's
been regressing ever since his best year, which was actually 2001.

Year  W-L  ERA    IP    BB/9  K/9   K/BB  HR/9
2000  7-4  2.72   92.2  4.37  7.58  1.73  0.58
2001 17-8  3.49  214.1  3.36  8.61  2.56  0.76
2002 23-5  2.75  229.1  3.06  7.14  2.33  0.94
2003 14-12 3.30  231.2  3.42  5.67  1.66  0.74

Pull away the Cy Young Award, the association with a great team and two
other great starting pitchers, and the image of the flaky left-hander that
doesn't get bothered by anything, and what you have is a pitcher who is
heavily dependent on his defense and his ballpark, both of which have kept
Zito's ERA down as his core stats regress. Subjectively, Zito has thrown a
ton of pitches from ages 23-25, many of them sharp-breaking, joint-rending
curveballs. He's the worst of the big three pitchers, but the only one with
a gaudy trophy on the mantle. He's marketable, personable, and signed
through 2006 at a total of about $16.5 million.

Zito is a mid-rotation starter with an ace's reputation. Trading him in the
right deal--and the right deal would almost certainly be available--would be
the kind of bold move that would solidify the team's spot atop the AL West
for years to come. Think the Mets wouldn't have to consider a Zito-for-Jose
Reyes trade? The Yankees are falling all over themselves to deal Nick
Johnson and Alfonso Soriano this winter. Either would improve the A's;
getting both--and would you put it past George Steinbrenner to trade
both?--would make them a truly great team. Zito is a SoCal guy; both the
Angels and Dodgers have good prospects within their system and new owners
dying to be loved. The Cubs want a left-hander and appear to have no use for
Juan Cruz or Hee Seop Choi.

There are any number of possibilities, all available because Zito has a
superstar's name and a fourth-year player's price tag. What makes a move
like this sensible is that Zito isn't likely to continue being one of the
league's top pitchers, and I have to believe a performance-conscious
braintrust like the A's have sees the degradation in his performance and
would concur with that idea. All they need to do is leverage that knowledge.

With Lilly gone, the A's have probably sealed off this route, but perhaps
not. After all, they have Rich Harden, Justin Duchscherer and Mike Wood
available right now, and Joe Blanton could be ready by midseason. Patching
the hole left by Zito's absence would likely only be a problem for a short
time, and the potential benefits, when you consider Zito's market value, are

You can read Michael's response here.

I couldn't agree with Mr. Sheehan more. Hits and earned runs are largely defense-dependent statistics. The pitcher has a large measure of control over the number of walks, strikeouts, and homeruns he allows to the opposing team. All else is subject to the fancy of the fates and/or his defense. Zito's walk rate has been consistent over the past three seasons, and his rate is quite good. However, his K/9 and K/BB have dropped in each of the past two seasons, not a very good indicator of future success. He did a much better job this season keeping the ball in the yard (21% better to be exact), which is certainly a good sign. However, the strikeouts are a disturbing trend.

Strikeout rate is probably the single-most important indicator of future success. It certainly isn't ERA or hits allowed, which can fluctuate from year-to-year depending on park factors, defense, luck, rotation of the earth, etc.

I'm not overly concerned about which year was better, 2001 or 2002. Pedro Martinez should have won the Cy Young in 2002 anyway. Joe makes an excellent point about Zito's tradeability, though. I have soured on Zito, particularly because of his low strikeout rates. Pitchers who do not strike out a good number of hitters have a difficult time maintaining consistency in the big leagues. How many great pitchers are in the league now who don't rely greatly on their ability to retire batters without putting the ball into play? Imagine if you will, the Yankees without their ability to ring up strike three on opposing hitters. The Yanks had four pitchers in the top eight in the AL in K/BB (David Wells,#2, Mike Mussina,#3, Andy Pettitte, #7, and Roger Clemens, #8). With the Yankees infield, they would have led the league in runs against if they had a pitching staff made up of Barry Zitos.

Barry Zito is, in my estimation (and Joe's), at his peak value. He's coming off a pretty good season after a Cy Young winning one (even if it wasn't Cy Young-worthy), and there are a lot of teams that would give their left nut for that kind of "alleged" performance. While I doubt the Mets would even entertain the offer for Jose Reyes (at least I hope they wouldn't), the Yankees would almost certainly part with Nick Johnson. Barry Zito is what pitchers are supposed to turn into when they can no longer pitch like they used to, not when they are only 25.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The Summer is Not Over Yet ... The Pedro Salsa Heatwave is Here! 

I'm not sure how long it's been around, but I just found out about a great new way to spice up your dominican dishes at home. It's Pedro Martinez' Southwest Corn & Bean Salsa. No joke. This is the most exciting thing since Kimo Bean introduced the now-defunct Benny Bean coffee, a partnership forged with former Met Benny Agbayani. Little did I know that PLB Sports offers a myriad of athlete-related food stuffs.

Pedro SalsaTom Glavine Marinara SauceDoug Flutie FlakesTodd Helton's Homerun Peanut Butter and JellyNolan Ryan Texan Style Steak Sauce

These are just a few of the many products available. Proceeds benefit a charity of choice for each athlete.

* * * * * * * * * *

Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe wrote an excellent article today about statistics and their use in baseball analysis, specifically as it pertains to the Red Sox organizational philosophies and what traits they are looking for in their new field manager.

The manager of the future -- maybe even the next manager on Yawkey Way -- may be expected to know all that about Martinez and more. Much more. About Martinez and every other player in the game.

In an era when computers have replaced people across the professional spectrum -- from typesetters to switchboard operators to assembly-line workers -- advanced technology is changing the way baseball is managed and played at a pace that makes Martinez's signature heater look like a lollipop pitch. And field tacticians who fail to embrace the movement may risk joining Grady Little among the ranks of the unemployed.

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