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Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – August 19, 2014

JUSTIN K. ALLER/GETTY IMAGES

JUSTIN K. ALLER/GETTY IMAGES

I attempt to expand my appreciation of WAR by trying to understand why Jason Heyward is ranked so highly.

I wound up being more impressed by Heyward than I thought I was going to be.

Plus, I encourage the Diamondbacks to make a change for the sake of a change.

It is a mind expanding episode of of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

Jason Heyward, Nick Markakis, Jason Vargas, Jerome Williams, Brandon Workman, Oswaldo Arcia, Starling Marte and Vidal Nuno all added to their totals for Who Owns Baseball?

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Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – August 17, 2014

Topps

Topps

 

It is time for The Sunday Request!

 

It is an interesting comparison but one that stats can’t quantify. Love cant be dictated solely by numbers.

It is an emotion and logic episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

David Ortiz, David Price, Yovani Gallardo, Michael Morse, Drew Smyly, Matt AdamsClayton Kershaw and Avisail Garcia  all added to their totals for Who Owns Baseball?

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Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – April 29, 2013

1973-1-baseball-scoreboard.

On today’s The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast I HONESTLY make an effort to understand WAR. It will be an uphill battle.

I also salute Jason Collins and wonder when the first active baseball player will come out.

Kevin Correia, Yoenis Cespedes, Giancarlo Stanton and Clayton Kershaw  owned baseball on April 28, 2013.

To see the up to date tally of “Who Owns Baseball?”, click HERE.


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Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – April 29, 2013

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Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – March 12, 2013

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While waiting for files to download, I realized that there are more than one way to enjoy baseball. If you are a traditional fan or a stat head, as long as the game is loved, that is all that matters.

Normally being frustrated at the office doesn’t lead to such a calming point of view.

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The Tampa Bay Rays: The Hitters 1998-2012: Part 2 Of A 5 Part Article Series

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Friday, December.21, 2012

Note from Chuck Booth:  I am attempting to bring the history for each of the 30 MLB Franchises into a 5 part series that will focus on 1. The teams history.  2. The hitters 3. The pitchers. 4. The Teams Payroll going into 2013 and 5.The Ball Park that they play in. (The stadium articles will all be done next summer when I go to all of the parks in under a month again.)  Be sure to check my author page with a list of all of  my archived articles section here.

Carl Crawford Leads as the ALL-Time Club Record Holder in most offensive categories.  Will Evan Longoria run him down..or will the club trade him?

Carl Crawford Leads as the ALL-Time Club Record Holder in most offensive categories. Will Evan Longoria run him down for all of the team records..or will the club trade him in a few years when his contract escalates in pay?

Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer/Website Owner):

The Rays have only been around for 15 years, however they have seen their share of talent grace the club.  In their inaugural year, the club signed Free Agents Fred McGriff and Wade Boggs.  A few years later when Boggs retired, they added Vinny Castilla, Jose Canseco and Greg Vaughn all to the club.  This movement did not work out.  It was the drafted talent of the club that started to surface in the early 2000’s.  Aubrey Huff and Carl Crawford emerged as AL offensive threats.  Other picks like Rocco Baldelli, Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes started out on fire, yet quickly flamed out.  The club saw other guys come and go before the 2007 started to show what the team was really capable of.  Carlos Pena gave them a bonafide HR guy.  Soon Evan Longoria was called up to the Major Leagues and the club featured one of the best attacks in all of Major League Baseball.

The offense has suffered a bit of a drop-off in the last few years, but newly acquired Wil Myers is one of the best offensive prospects in the game of baseball.  Longoria is signed through 2023 and Ben Zobrist is a great all-around offensive talent signed for the next 3 seasons.  While the team will still be predominantly based with great pitching, the club should see some well-rounded offensive players. 

Tropicana Field is one of the harder places to put up great numbers, so we will see what the future holds.  We must look at the past.  In these Series I have been doing for the teams, a lot of criteria had to be met to be included in the Franchises best hitters or pitchers.  Obviously with a 15 Year Old team, the stakes are not raised as high.  I still looked for significant contributions to the team.  Of course if anyone ever leads the American League in any category, that is usually grounds for inclusion.

Franchise Series Article Links:

The Tampa Bay Rays: The Franchise 1998-2012: Part 1 Of A 5 Part Article Series

The Pitchers:  The Tampa Bay Rays: The Pitchers 1998-2012: Part 3 Of A 5 Part Article Series

2013 Team Payroll Part 4:  Tampa Bay Rays Payroll 2013 And Contracts Going Forward: Updated for Myers Trade Dec.11/2012

Tropicana Field Expert:  An Interview with Tropicana Field Expert Kurt Smith

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Daniel Bard: Future Red Sox Ace?

Thursday March 15, 2012

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer):  With most of Red Sox Nation knowing that big time closer Jonathan Papelbon would be leaving the team via free agency after the 2011 season, many thought that it would be a seamless transition to throw Daniel Bard into the mix as the closer for the foreseeable future.  However, new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington surprised many when he announced that Bard would be stretched out as a starter in the spring.

Now, it’s not the first time a good reliever has been turned into a starter, and many of them have turned into useful starters.  C.J. Wilson is just one of these successful conversions, having been the Texas Rangers’ closer from 2007-2009, then shifting into the rotation for 2010 and 2011.  Wilson earned 46 saves in those 3 seasons, and after his move to the rotation, he went 31-15 and accumulated 10.5 WAR, putting him in the upper echelon of starters.

This year, another closer for the Rangers will be shifting to the rotation in Neftali Feliz.  Many believe that he will struggle. But if C.J. Wilson, who was a decent reliever can do it, why not Feliz?  Why not Bard?

Bard has an electric fastball, averaging over 97 mph over his MLB career.  He also has a solid slider that sits around 84 mph.  Bard has induced ground balls at an extremely high rate; 48.6% over 197 IP.  Bard has lowered his walk rate, as well as HR/FB while maintaining an extremely low BABIP over the last two seasons, .215 and .224, respectively.

Bard hasn’t started a game since 2007 when he was in single-A ball.  He threw 75 innings of 7.08 ERA, striking out 47 and walking 78.  Obviously a lot of those control issues are behind him, as evidenced by his shrinking BB/9; 4.01, 3.62, and 2.96 in 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively.  Bard has been able to get guys out with a fastball that touches 100 mph, and a plus slider.  The problem here is that he only ever threw one inning at a time, and thus rarely needed a third pitch.  According to brooksbaseball.net, in 2011, Bard threw his change-up 83 times, which is only 7.5% of all his pitches, in contrast to 64% on his fastball, and 25% on his slider.  He also threw 46 sinkers, around 4.1%.

In such a small sample size of changeups, one should definitely not get too excited over the results.  However, in 2011, Bard fared pretty well with his change-up.  He was able to induce swings on 48.19% of his changeups, and 25% of those were swing-and-misses.  His changeup was put in play 23% of the time, and had a ground ball rate of 63%.

In no way does this mean it is a good changeup. However, it does seem promising.  It is also possible that Bard just throws them at the most opportune time, and delivers when necessary.  It could also mean that he is incredibly lucky.

With Bard having to throw 6+ innings every 5th day, how will his arm hold up moving to the rotation?  Most relievers have a limit in their first years starting as to how many innings they will throw.

Brandon Morrow was moved to the rotation full time when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, and was shut down after 146 innings in 2010, and threw only 179 innings in 2011. This year, there will be no limitations on the hard throwing righty, whose profile closely fits that of Bard.  Morrow can get his fastball in the upper 90s as well as having a devastating slider.  His success has been only moderate due to mediocre offerings in his curve ball and changeup.

Bard’s development as a starter rests mostly on the development of his changeup.  If he is able to use it more often and maintain success with it, he could be a solid starter this year and going forward.  The other extremely important thing to look at is whether new manager Bobby Valentine will limit his innings, or let him go for the full season, as the Rangers did with Wilson in 2010 (204 IP).

I see Bard throwing somewhere around 170 innings this year, and performing fairly well, getting acclimated to throwing every 5th day.  His changeup is developing, and if he harnesses it, he could be a deadly addition to a rotation that includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz.


***Today’s feature was prepared by Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: mlbreports@me.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on FacebookTo subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR): Analyzing MLB Statistics using Sabermetrics

Wednesday January 11th, 2012

 

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Although WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is not the best of the sabermetric stats for fantasy baseball purposes, it has certainly transformed the way in which we can truly understand a given major league baseball player’s contribution (or lack there of) to his team. WAR attempts to epitomize a player’s total value in one sole statistic, taking into account both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game. FanGraphs (the sabermetrics bible) aptly describes the essence of WAR: “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing.” A player is measured in “Wins” for a season (i.e. 3.4), while an average full-time player is worth 2 wins and a replacement player represents 0 wins. Furthermore an average staring pitcher is worth 2.0 WAR, while 1.0 WAR represents a strong season for a relief pitcher.  

Here are the 2011 leaders in WAR:

Batting

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury – 9.4

  2. Matt Kemp – 8.7

  3. Jose Bautista – 8.3

  4. Dustin Pedroia – 8.0

  5. Ryan Braun – 7.8

  6. Ian Kinsler – 7.7

  7. Miguel Cabrera – 7.3

  8. Curtis Granderson 7.0

  9. Alex Gordon 6.9

  10. Joey Votto 6.9


Pitching

  1. Roy Halladay – 8.2

  2. C.C. Sabathia – 7.1

  3. Justin Verlander – 7.0

  4. Clayton Kershaw – 6.8

  5. Cliff Lee – 6.7

  6. Dan Haren

  7. C.J. Wilson – 6.4

  8. Jered Weaver – 5.9

  9. Doug Fister – 5.6

  10. Felix Hernandez – 5.6


The statistic actually defines a player’s value, something that MVP (Most Valuable Players) voters should perhaps consider come each October. For batters, the stat itself is calculated by taking into account two stats: wRAA (Weighted Runs Above Average) and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which represent a batter’s offensive and defensive values, respectively. Pitching WAR replaces these two sabermetric stats with FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), a stat that normalizes ERA for the “uncontrollable,” in conjunction with numbers of innings pitched. The Uncontrollable refers to what happens after the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, because obviously pitchers have almost no control over the balls that are in play. They are ultimately at the mercy of their defense.

Fangraphs site the formula for FIP as the following:

FIP: ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP-IBB))-(2*K))/IP + constant

If you are unfamiliar with Sabermetrics and WAR, this should feel like a mix between learning a foreign language and a calculus problem. However, don’t let this intimidate you. Spend some time on FanGraphs (It’s okay take it slowly) and it will change the way in which you think about the game of baseball. Please note that Baseball Reference has a slightly different formula/method to calculate WAR.

The beauty of WAR, however, is that it not only takes in account a player’s defensive skills (using UZR), but also the difficulty of the position. Therefore, someone like Dustin Pedroia at second base is significantly more valuable than a slugging Prince Fielder, at the first base position where power and production is demanded. Perhaps that is why Fielder is still fielding offers and has not landed a contract within his desired range. Not too shabby of statistic for a General Manager, huh? My hope is that this analysis paints the complexity of WAR and the many factors used to determine the number of wins that a player is ultimately worth to his team.

Let it be clear that by no means is WAR perfect. From a rather cynical standpoint, the very philosophy of WAR, which is calculated with so many components, professes that you cannot use one sole determinant to measure a player’s value. Furthermore, the positional adjustment numbers are the most arbitrary difficult to calculate. Can we really determine that a Center Fielder, due to difficulty to play the position itself, is worth 1.5 more wins than a first baseman? It is also difficult to determine the UZR for a first baseman, a position in which success is defined less by range and more by the ability to field throws. Paul Konerko certainly does not have great range, but he is universally regarded as one of the league’s top defensive first baseman, most likely saving Alexei Ramirez a handful of errors each season. Likewise, you cannot measure range for catchers, which use the fielding component of Stolen Base Runs Saved (rSB).  We also know that much of catcher’s true value is related to his ability to call a smart game (which cannot be measured by any given statistic).

However, from a fantasy perspective, we do not care about defense, and therefore wRAA is a more accurate indicator of offensive output. FIP can be used as well. For example, if a pitcher’s FIP indicates that his defense is frequently letting him down, and said pitcher joins a top rated defensive team; you have acquired knowledge about a player’s ability not represented by the generic stats out there. This is how you will earn surplus value and land the “surprises”, the “bounce-back” players, and avoid the “busts”.

I admit, when I first familiarized myself with FanGraphs, I felt like I was cheating in my fantasy baseball leagues. However, after joining more competitive leagues and with sabermetrics entering the mainstream, I have learned that this only provides a slight advantage. Just as it holds true for every other aspect of life, it is impossible to predict the future in the world of baseball. However, in a game of numbers- only the slightest advantage is needed to set your team apart from the competition.

WAR is a one of a kind stat. It helps us more thoroughly examine a player’s worth, especially when compared to their salary. Ultimately, the stat serves as a good building block to work back from to understand the intricacies and essence of sabermetrics.


***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Top 10 Closers: MLB Saves Leaders

Thursday August 25, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Closers are a topic a lot of people ask about, but I never really got around to writing about.  Mainly because, in my opinion, it is a position that is completely overrated.  While it certainly helps to have a guy that can go in and slam the door and collect saves for over a decade a la Mariano Rivera, it isn’t necessary to have a “closer” to be a contending team.  One need only to look at the top 20 leaders in saves in baseball to notice that the Texas Rangers’ closer Neftali Feliz sits 19th with 25 saves, and Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Madson is 20th with 23 saves.  It also doesn’t guarantee success, as Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan are all in the top 10 in saves, while their teams are not in playoff contention.

 

Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:

Pitcher Team Saves K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel Atlanta Braves 40 14.56 3.53 1.70 1.20 3.1
John Axford Milwaukee Brewers 37 10.86 3.32 2.26 2.36 1.7
Jose Valverde Detroit Tigers 37 8.31 4.79 2.72 4.08 0.2
Brian Wilson San Francisco Giants 35 8.72 5.20 3.19 3.40 0.7
Heath Bell San Diego Padres 35 6.79 3.23 2.55 3.07 0.7
Drew Storen Washington Nationals 34 8.03 2.19 2.77 3.48 0.6
Mariano Rivera New York Yankees 33 8.45 0.92 2.20 2.23 1.8
Leo Nunez Florida Marlins 33 8.31 2.88 4.63 4.02 0.1
Joel Hanrahan Pittsburgh Pirates 32 7.85 2.04 1.73 2.17 1.8
JJ Putz Arizona Diamondbacks 32 8.28 2.17 2.76 3.10 1.0

I look at this list and a few things come to mind:

1)      Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.

2)      Mariano Rivera is still one of the very best.

3)      Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.

4)      A lot of saves does not equal success.

5)      Craig Kimbrel.  Wow.

Craig Kimbrel is having the best year ever for a rookie closer.  It isn’t even September and he has 40 saves.  Not only that, but he is striking out more than 14 batters per 9 innings.  His FIP is a ridiculous 1.20, and his WAR is at 3.1, which is 1.3 higher than any other closer in the Major Leagues.  His ground ball rate is 43.7% and has only given up 1 home run in 63 2/3 innings.  If the Braves end up winning the Wild Card and have a lead late in games, the shutdown duo of Johnny Venters and Kimbrel should be able to save the game for the Braves in most instances.

John Axford has had a strange way to becoming one of the premier closers in all of baseball.  It took him many years to get there, but under the tutelage of Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, whom Axford took his job from, he has flourished.  In 2010, Axford had 24 saves after taking over for Hoffman mid-season, and this year’s 37 so far are tied for 2nd in the big leagues.  Axford gets over 50% ground balls, and keeps the ball in the yard, two main factors for his success.

Jose Valverde is one of the closers whom I find to be overrated.  Part of his success can be attributed to a lucky .250 BABIP.   He also walks close to 5 batters per 9 innings, which is extremely high, especially when he does not strike out a very high number of batters.  Valverde may appear to be very good with 37 saves, but his 0.2 WAR suggests that he is basically a replacement level pitcher.  Surely he is not worth the $7M he is being paid.

Brian Wilson is loved by many in the game.  He is funny, has a strange personality, (which seems to be perfectly suited for the bullpen) and he has an outrageous beard.  Since 2008, he has accumulated 162 saves, so he is very valuable at the back-end of the Giants’ bullpen.  He keeps the ball on the ground, with a career 50% ground ball rate, but he walks a ton of batters (5.20/9IP).  He gets a lot of save opportunities because the starting rotation is very good, and his team doesn’t score many runs, so there are a lot of close games. 

Heath Bell has put up some ridiculous numbers over the last few years, but these numbers come with half of his games played in the cavernous PETCO Park.  While his last two seasons had his K rate over 10, he sits at 6.79 for this season.  His ground ball rate is also down 5% to 43.  Although his ERA is a good 2.55, his xFIP is 3.89, and like Wilson, gets saves because of an anaemic offense that results in his team often being in close games.

Drew Storen is another of the Washington Nationals’ young phenoms.  He moved up the ranks, throwing only 53 2/3 innings in the minor leagues before making his debut in 2010.  He has been a tad lucky as his BABIP is .241, but he gets a lot of ground balls, so the hits will even out.  He also gives up a higher than average home run per fly ball rate at 11.1%.  Storen doesn’t walk many, and as he matures, should probably strike out a higher number.  When Washington starts winning more games, he will have even more opportunities for saves.

Mariano Rivera is up to his usual tricks. Even at 41 years old, he is carving up hitters with his signature cut fastball.  Rivera has a ridiculous 9:1 K:BB ratio, as well as getting ground balls 47% of the time.  His WAR sits at 1.8, tied for second best for closers.  The only question is when will this guy ever slow down?

Leo Nunez of the Florida Marlins may be the most overrated closer in baseball.  Nunez doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, nor does he strike out a ton, as he gives up a ton of fly balls (49%) and home runs (8 in 56 IP).  Nunez’s ERA of 4.63 actually looks worse than his 4.02 FIP, so he has been a little unlucky, but still not very good.

Joel Hanrahan has found a home at the back-end up the Pirates’ bullpen, and is thriving there.  While his K rate has dropped to 7.85/9 IP from almost 13 last year, he has walked less batters.  Hanrahan has been able to induce ground balls on over half of his plate appearances, and only given up 1 home run in 57 1/3 innings.  His stellar numbers have allowed him to tie Rivera for 2nd in closer’s WAR this year.

JJ Putz’s resurgence as a closer this year comes as no surprise to many.  Last year as a setup man for Bobby Jenks with the Chicago White Sox, Putz’s K rate was just below 11/9IP, while he walked only 2.5 per 9 innings.  He hasn’t put up the same strikeout numbers this year, but he is walking less batters.  Putz’s WAR of 1.0 puts him towards the top of the list of closers.

 

Out of the top 30 relievers in WAR, only 9 are full-time closers.  Francisco Rodriguez is among those pitchers, but since he does not close games since traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, he was not counted.  Although this doesn’t mean that just ANYONE can close games and earn saves, it does show that many pitchers who have not been given the opportunity probably could get the job done.  

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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