Thursday, April 19, 2007

Schierholtz and Dodd: Lucky to be Out of Hell

I've written earlier about how Ishikawa's prospect status should not have taken a hit by most analysts. That's partly because I tend to root for the underdog - occupational hazard of being a Giants fans for the past 36 years - partly because I am a stereotypical cheap Chinese who can't stand to waste anything useful, partly because I love the long-ball hitters, mainly because I noticed how badly Dodd Stadium affects the overall stats for our Connecticut hitters.

In this post, I'll also make the case also for Schierholtz: his status did not suffer as much as Ishikawa's but I wanted to show it is not just Ishikawa who is affected, Schierholtz was greatly affected as well. {Note: I wrote this a while ago, before Schierholtz was assigned to AAA and Ishikawa to AA, but wanted to use it anyway. Plus, as I'll note with a sort of postscript at the end, it continues, even if for early results.}

In total, there were only 10 hitters who were 22 years old or younger, 8 who were 22, in the Eastern League. So, in the first place, any 22 year old who makes AA must be pretty good in the first place. And clearly, any 22 year old who can hold their own against pitchers who are 3 years older, on average, who have up to 3 more years in experience than they do, are pretty good in their own right. What I'm trying to show is that Schierholtz and Ishikawa's achievements in AA in 2006 are being undervalued greatly. It is unsual to be 22 and in AA, doubly so that you hit well too. And they compare well with the other 22 year olds, but more importantly, significantly better than the league average.

Comparison Against League and Other 22 YOs

Among 22 year olds or younger, both Schierholtz and Ishikawa did average even with their Dodd-depressed overall stats. Both were right about the average for both this young group and for the league, both with 295 AB or more.

22 year olds: .267/.320/401/.721
Schierholtz-all: .270/.325/.443/.768
Ishikawa - all: .232/.316/.403/.719
Schierholtz-Road: .279/.328/.488/.818
Ishikawa - Road: .244/.332/.470/.801
League - all: .252/.323/.381/.704
League - home: .258/.329/.391/.719
League - road: .247/.318/.371/.689

No big surprise here but as I noted before, Dodd affects homerun rate, which affects the five stats I will cover next. But clearly, even with their depressed stats, these two players are above average, slightly for Ishikawa, but looking at their road stats, they were clearly above average and they were comparably good as hitters, with virtually the same OPS. Next I will cover SLG, OPS, ISO, XBH, and AB/HR, all stats related to a hitters homerun power.

For SLG, both did right around average, but look at their road numbers (number in parentheses are their stats relative to the league average):

Schierholtz-all: .443 (110)
Ishikawa - all: .403 (101)
22 year old: .401 (100)
Eastern League: .400
Schierholtz-road: .488 (122)
Ishikawa - road: .470 (118)

Schierholtz did well either way but he was 22% above the league on the road, 11% in total. Ishikawa had a bigger change. He was average overall but on the road he was 18% above the league average. The 22 year olds and younger were at the league average, so Schierholtz and Ishikawa were equally above that group as well.

For OPS:

Schierholtz-all: .768 (106)
Ishikawa - all: .719 (99)
22 year old: .721 (100)
Eastern League: .724
Schierholtz-road: .818 (113)
Ishikawa - road: .801 (111)

This mirrors SLG in that both were much above average on the road, not so much overall. Again the 22 year old group was league average.

For ISO, or Isolated Power:

Schierholtz-all: 163 (131)
Ishikawa - all: 171 (138)
22 year old: 134 (108)
Eastern League: 124
Schierholtz-road: 209 (169)
Ishikawa - road: 226 (182)

Both Schierholtz and Ishikawa were much above the league average overall. But using their road numbers, they were clearly above the pack, both against the 22 year olds and under and the league average.

For Extra Base Hits (XBH, as percentage of total hits):

Schierholtz-all: 36% (116)
Ishikawa - all: 30% (97)
22 year old: 30% (97)
Eastern League: 31%
Schierholtz-road: 41% (132)
Ishikawa - road: 50% (161)

This mirrors SLG and OPS. But look at how superior both Schierholtz and Ishikawa were when they are on the road. Does it make sense that hitters that are that much better on the road is rendered pretty ordinary when looking at the overall stats?

Lastly, for AB/HR:

Schierholtz-all: 33.57 (116)
Ishikawa - all: 29.80 (131)
22 year old: 44.93 (87)
Eastern League: 38.98
Schierholtz-road: 27.11 (144)
Ishikawa - road: 23.43 (166)

Here's where both Schierholtz and Ishikawa shines either way. Both are much above average relative to the 22 year old and younger group and the league , on their overall stats. But going to the road numbers, they are still significantly better than either of the comparison groups. And they especially showed their superiority to other 22 year olds and younger, who either did not have the strength or skill to hit for homers yet.

Conclusions

As I have tried to show with these stats, both Schierholtz and Ishikawa appear to be average or slightly above average, based just on their overall stats. That is an achievement right there as 22 year old in a league populated by 24, 25, and 26 year olds. But once you look at their road stats, they are clearly superior, not only to the league in general, but to their 22 year old and younger group as well. You have to be a pretty good prospect to make AA at age 22 - there were only 10 hitters who were that young in the league. It is that much harder to outdo the average like Schierholtz did.

But as I tried to show in my previous posts, their home park, Dodd Stadium, severely kills homeruns, and thus their road numbers are more indicative of their power skill level and thus of their overall hitting ability. Based on those superior stats, they are both greatly advanced homerun hitters than the vast majority of hitters in the Eastern League, let alone just the 22 year olds. Power like that is masked in Dodd Stadium and rendered both Schierholtz and Ishikawa to appear average in performance when both were clearly superior.

Postscript

It is early, but telling, if you look at Ishikawa's stats thus far, as of games to 4/18/07. Here are the stats:

Home: 1 for 15, 0 runs, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 4 BB, 4 SO, .067/.263/.067/.300
Road: 3 for 14, 2 runs, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 5 SO, .214/.267/.500/.767

Lucky for Schierholtz, he did a little bit better in batting average and at Dodd than Ishikawa, so he got the call up to Fresno, while Ishikawa has to sit in Connecticut and suffer from his home park. It is not like the Giants have position prospects coming out of their ears and we can afford to throw away prospects. Ishikawa looks like he can be the lefty half of a platoon at 1B and he would be a perfect bookend with Niekro at 1B because Niekro is a righty. And both are considered good defensive 1B. Here is Ishikawa's home/road splits last season:

vs. LHP: .197/.276/.316/.592, 76 HR/AB
vs. RHP: .240/.325/.427/.752, 25 HR/AB

I've never said that Ishikawa looks to be a great 1B - he strikes out too much for that and as a result has a low batting average plus cannot hit lefties. But he could be our platoon guy with Niekro - another useful position prospect, but lacking in hitting RHP - and that should be good enough to cover 1B, allowing the Giants to pay for higher priced free agents at other key positions, instead of getting some high priced player to man 1B and leaving less money for other positions. Hopefully playing in Dodd does not mess with his head too much or hurt his confidence.

I've seen a number of people give the macho answer of "oh, any major leaguer worth his salt should be able to adjust to the part." The GM of the Defenders told me that Ishikawa should adjust and hit balls into the gaps and run like heck. That would be like telling Bengie Molina to do that - "whut, you can't run like the wind?" - utterly ridiculous. That is not Ishikawa's skill.

Sure, if you are trying to see if Ishikawa is a great player, then you can test him out, see if he can adjust to things like that, but Ishikawa is mainly one-dimensional - homeruns mainly, though he can also take enough walks to mitigate his low BA - so putting him at a park that minimizes his one true skill greatly, by almost 50%, is stupid on a number of levels.

First, no more of this macho thing, when the park reduces someone's particular skill by 50%. That's like getting mad at pitchers who could not pitch in Colorado pre-humidor. "Why don't you adjust? It's just thin air!" Second, some players are not confident enough or skilled enough to battle through a tough extreme park like this. Why risk killing their confidence, particularly at a key level like AA where the good are separated from the bad. Third, why risk getting him into bad habits where he might adjust to hit better in Dodd, but then cannot hit anywhere else? Or worse, take away the one skill - though great skill if he can continue to hit homers at a 25 AB/HR pace - that he has? I've read about how major league batters get into bad habits hitting in Fenway with the inviting Big Green Monster so close and yet so far. But it's one thing when you are already in the majors, another if he is a fledgling ballplayer, fighting his way up the minors.

Why make things harder? The Giants have invested over $1M into him, why screw around with that investment? Schierholtz was clearly affected as well, what if this had screwed up his hitting mechanics (luckily, it does not appear that it has, with his early HR streak) and he regressed as well?

It's fine if you have the speedsters who has to hit and steal to be very valuable, this park won't affect them much, why make it hard for your homerun hitters? If the power hitters are suppose to suck it up, then why not water down the basepaths and make it into swamps, like the Giants used to do whenever Maury Wills and the Dodgers came to town, in order to slow up our best basestealers on the basepaths? "They should adjust, else they aren't major leaguers!" That would surely toughen them up too, if that is the logic people want to use for this Dodd Stadium problem.

This also affects pitchers as well. Pitchers will do abnormally well in Dodd Stadium because mistakes that normally end up in the seats, end up as outs, as Schierholtz and Ishikawa stats demonstrated, and as I had shown in previous posts. Thus they will get away with mistakes and poor pitching at Dodd when they should be learning how to adjust and not give up the homerun. Instead, they could get into bad habits, false positives if you will, that would get exposed when they go to Fresno and AAA and find out that their pitches don't really get hitters out, they end up as homers.

Why do this to your prospects?

7 comments:

  1. You confuse me, Martin. Ishikawa is in Connecticut.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hence why I noted that he got assigned to AA.

    Schierholtz is lucky to be out of the hell that is Dodd in Connecticut, whereas Ishikawa was sent back there even though his road stats showed that he mastered AA the same way he mastered High-A (now it seems to be called Advanced A with Low-A now just called A). He should have been advanced with Schierholtz, particularly since Chad Santos doesn't seem like he'll be anything better than a backup 1B.

    Particularly since Santos, last season, benefited from playing in Fresno. Home: .297/.342/.517/.860, 9 HR in 172 AB; Road: .227/.274/.359/.533, 5 HR in 181 AB. Not many people agree with me, but to me, in general, a player's road numbers is much superior for comparation with other players because you get a blend of how he hits in a number of environments. With your home numbers, you get the benefit or damage that a home park can inflict on your stats. Why hold back Ishikawa because he cannot hit in Dodd but can crush the ball in the rest of Eastern League?

    I can understand doing that once he reaches the majors, if he can't hit in AT&T, he's useless to us. But why hold him back when 1) his home park masked that he hit just as well on the road as he had hit in San Jose that earned him the promotion in the first place, and 2) the guy blocking his way in Fresno was not even a 1B level offense for the minors, let alone the majors? His overall stats, even with the Fresno boost is .261/.307/.436/.743 with 14 HR in 353. That's a Pedro Feliz line of stats but in the MINORS, at least Pedro is doing that in the majors, Santos can't even handle AAA pitchers, what makes the Giants think he can handle major league pitchers? And he's at 1B, where the level of offense necessarily to play in the majors is much higher than that at 1B.

    How many other position prospects did we have who hit as well as he had hit in order to move up to AA, but only on the road, only to get put back in Connecticut because Dodd kills homeruns and made it seem like he was not worthy enough to get promoted to AAA?

    It is hard enough to make the jump from AA to AAA without adding an obstacle like Dodd in the way. The Giants moved there in 2003, it appears, so there hasn't really been much time for prospects to get hung up there, maybe the Mayor of Norwich, Mike Cervanek, Dan Ortmeier.

    Last year, he got sent back to Connecticut and here is his splits there: Home, .212/.308/.288/.596, 1 HR in 66 AB; Road, .277/.342/.396/.738, 1 HR in 101 AB. The home park rendered him toothless offensively, though his road numbers were nothing to write home about either.

    Look at Frandsen's stats. 800+ OPS all through college and lower levels of baseball, but he hits Norwich is and reduced to 731, then goes to Fresno and he's back in the 800+ again (well, basically, 798 last season).

    EME, also 800+ pretty much everywhere he goes, 770 in very limited action (90-ish at-bats) in Dodd last year. Of course, that could be because he's not good enough, but doubtful given his hitter's reputation. He has been rated one of the best hitters among all prospects for two years in a roll by Deric MacKamey, author of Minor League Baseball Analyst, which I refer to a lot. His splits: home, .280/.309/.420/.729, 0 HR in 50 AB; road, .273/.340/.545/.885, 3 HR in 44 AB.

    Schierholtz, 800+ all the way up, 768 with Connecticut, he's the closest among the hitters I looked at, in terms of meeting his prior hitting prowess, hopefully that's a great sign that he's a great hitter. Same with EME, he had a .803 OPS overall, despite the home problems.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree with your assessment, but the bottom line is what they project in the majors. AT&T park is extremely hard on lefty power hitters not named Bonds. If Dodd stadium provides some sort of model for this, then it has some use for the Giants in the assessment of these hitters, as long as, as you point out, it doesn't get the hitters into bad habits. Unfortunately, there probably isn't enough data at this point to evaluate the Dodd/AT&T projection.

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  4. Actually, there is some data. Bill James has a good data handbook that he publshes every year, and for the 2004-2006 period, HR-rate for LHB was 73 where 100 is the league norm. That's a big drop. However, Dodd, as I noted in a long ago post, reduces the rate down to 56% (!!!) of the league norm. Now, don't know how the league norm in AA compares to the majors, but that is a comparison of how badly it depresses the HR rate.

    Not everyone notes or accounts for this depressive power of any park. For example, as I noted before, most Giants fans derided JT Snow's reduced HR power in his later years, but if you looked at his road numbers, he still had 20 HR power (30 AB/HR), same as he always had, it was only that his home numbers sunk down his overall numbers.

    In addition, this was brought up before, about AT&T being bad on LHB. The point for me is not that the park affects LHB greatly, the point is that once Ishikawa (or Schierholtz or whoever) is up to the majors, his abilities have been acknowledged but if he is still at Dodd, his abilities are masked and his skills are thus being underrated.

    People understand, "oh, well he's a lefty so his stats are reduced there at AT&T for power". Analysts can make adjustments for that and create stats for a neutral park/environment.

    This level of detail for the minors is just coming out, and I noticed it may not be free anymore because minorleaguesplits.com is not providing 2007 splits. People who look at the numbers for the prospects don't break things up into home/road, they crunch their numbers for their overall stats, because that is all they have, and if Ishikawa's home stats are polluting his stats, most analysis will miss that because I appear to be one of the only ones who believe this can be a significant factor.

    Which I find incredulous because I think everyone pretty much acknowledged that Colorado pre-humidor was a warped offensive zone that you had to adjust a players numbers for, why can't they accept that this might hold for other parks in the professional baseball, particularly minor league parks, where there is not much uniformity, particularly regarding the care of the fields and the configuration? Arlington (Rangers) is another hitters park, Chase Field (D-backs), Citizen Bank (Phils), both Chicago parks, Toronto.

    Same for pitcher's parks, like Dodger Stadium, Dolpins Stadium (Marlins), Comerica Park (Tigers), Jacobs Field (Indians), PETCO Park (Padres), RFK Stadium (Nats), or SAFECO Park (Mariners).

    Analysts can make adjustments for all these factors because there is data galore for them all.

    However, if a player's true abilities are masked by Dodd's extreme depressant on HRs, then he may never get the chance to see if he can make it at AAA. Or if he struggles long enough, his confidence will be stripped so that by the time he makes AAA or the majors, he might not be as successful as he might have been had he had some success instead.

    Some people take the macho route and say that this should toughen up the players and they need to adjust and blah blah blah. If you want to do that, then do all the things I suggest, water down the paths, put the fences way out there, make everyone go through Marine type workouts and see who survives.

    I'm not saying make it easy for them and pamper and coddle them, I'm just saying why put an extra obstacle in front of our position prospects that other teams don't, why risk reducing their confidence in their abilities when other teams don't, why make making the majors that much harder, it is hard enough as it is.

    If you want to see how tough they are, then put them through Survivor or a Marine Boot Camp or whatever your choice of testing toughness and adjustment is.

    Again, people tell Ishikawa and others to adjust to the park, but even major leaguers cannot adjust to AT&T to hit there for power, how do you expect minor leaguers to do that? And pitchers can't adjust to pitching in Colorado or Texas, is that their problem or the park's problem?

    Plus the extreme nature of this particular trait of Dodd, halving homers, that's fine at the major league level, you populate the team with speedsters who can run forever and you win relative to the park. Clearly you, as the GM, should not get the longball hitters.

    But Dodd is a place where you need to evaluate your young players plus try to build up their confidence that they are major leaguers, assuming that they have the skill for it. If you put Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard in a park where the fences are 500 feet away from homeplate, they will never hit a homer there, do you think they will feel very good about themselves if all their hits are long outs or merely doubles, after a couple of seasons there?

    ReplyDelete
  5. You might want to cool it on the Ishikawa bandwagon, it is getting embarrassing and lowering your credibility. Enough with the excuses.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Spare me your condescension, reminscent of your doppelganger on Fanhome who spewed his BS at me too.

    This comment might have been apt had you commented soon after I had posted this. However you embarrass yourself by not reading on my follow-up article on the Dodd Stadium phenomenon.

    I soon realized that there are those who wear blinders and don't realize that the situation is bigger than just one player. Ishikawa happens to be the reason I discovered this phenomenon, as I clearly explained over and over and over and over and over and over again, and if this causes trouble for any of our position prospects, then it is worthy of exposure because position prospects are so rare in our system that sabotaging their progress with a bad park, particularly in a critical level as AA, is stupid, wasteful, and ineffective. Ishikawa is and has been a middling but very promising power and defensive 1B, but very far from reaching the majors with his plethora of strikeouts. But just because he's not the best prospect should it mean that we should spit upon his strong HR potential and toss him - or any of our position prospects - to the side, just because they cannot hit in Dodd Stadium, because nobody can hit there for power, not ours, not any other team, as I showed with the Defenders pitching staff stats.

    If you had bothered to look further, or even if you took your blinders off and read this article without seeing the name Ishikawa, it is not just Ishikawa affected. Look at the data for the league. Clearly the park is skewed.

    Look at the data for many of our hitters there. Not only are our top power hitters affected by Dodd but anybody with 5 homers or more last year with over 100 ABs - hardly Bondsian heights - were affected by the park, they had their extra-base hit power sapped along with their HR power. 5 homers! That's middle infield bad power and even they were affected by the park.

    If the management were savvy enough, and not penny wise and pound foolish, to recogize that the park is so skewed then they would have worked out something with the Defenders owners and park owners to get the park changed post-haste, during the off-season instead of putting pressure on the Defenders to fix it themselves. They should have made it happen instead of letting the ESPN filming screw things up. Don't ESPN have a contract with the MLB? I know there are business pressures that be laid on a media firm like ESPN.

    So spare me your warning, which is almost word for word the warning I was given at Fanhome and drew almost the same response from me too: get your act together and show me some research that proves me wrong before giving me your trite warnings and condescending tone.

    ReplyDelete
  7. FYI, minorleaguesplits.com has recently started providing 2007 splits, in addition to 2006 in certain circumstances, as the various links create this huge tree where if you follow one route you get 2007 numbers, the other route gets you 2006 numbers, but no easy way of figuring what is what except by knowing that the season is still young and a large number of ABs probably means it is 2006 data.

    ReplyDelete

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