Thursday, February 21, 2008

New Baserunning Coach Preaching and Teaching

Roberto Kelly is the Giants new first base coach, after having great successful managing in the minors, leading Augusta the past three years. He is also in charge of outfield and baserunning instruction. At Augusta, the teams overachieved with pitchers without overpowering stuff and speedsters like Marcus Sanders, Eugenio Velez, Antoan Richardson, and Emmanuel Burriss, stealing a ton of buses.

Having fast players, it is usually hard to see what effect Kelly has on them, but Velez is a stark example of how well Kelly taught the players to be run-happy. When Eugenio was in the Blue Jay's system, he never stole more than 10 bases in any full season (he stole 28 bases in short season rookie DSL), his high was when he stole 7 (and was caught 5 times) in his last season in their system. He was a horrible base stealer. First season we got him, Kelly had Velez stealing 64 (!) bases with 81% success rate, which is above average and above the break-even rate for success rate (I've seen some state anywhere from 70-80% as the break-even point). He won the league's MVP award with that performance the season after his team gave up on him and we picked him up.

That is a huge transformation, all due to Kelly according to Velez. Velez swears by Kelly: "Everything I know right now, I learned from Roberto Kelly. He said, 'If a pitcher has a quick move, he'll give you something. Pay attention and you'll see it.' " Emmanuel Burris also had a positive comment as well, "There's a difference between a hard-working team and a team that wants to work hard. His teams want to work hard."

Those are clearly the attitudes the Giants are trying to instill for 2008 and beyond, for the players to work hard, to take the extra base. And it goes beyond just stealing bases, it affects all areas of baserunning in general which puts pressure on the opposing defenses, hopefully forcing errors. Taking extra bases, whether by stealing bases on stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples, will be the goal this season.

In addition, there is a bonus in that Kelly is a Spanish speaker and the first on the coaching staff since Alou was the manager and Luis Pujols was on the staff. This is important because the Giants have been making a concerted push in Latin America for talent and expects that talent to reach the majors soon. For example, Kelly has already been assisting Angel Villalona with both baseball issues and life in general.

Velez Playing Various Positions

Speaking of Eugenio Velez, Chris Haft of sfgiants.com just wrote on him in an interesting article. The Giants are moving ahead with trying to make him into a Chone Figgins uber-utility type of player who can essentially start but can start at a wide variety of different positions each day. They have been playing him at 2B, 3B, SS, and the OF. The 25 year old said - unsurprisingly - that he's willing to play anywhere in order to make the majors.

Velez's transformation was pretty stark, as noted above, and he credited his development to Roberto Kelly, his former Augusta manager and current Giants first base coach. "I try to put into play everything that I've learned from him," Velez said. Looks like he has done a great job of learning from Kelly, Velez was a nothing prospect when the Giants picked him up, and now he is on most Giants' Top 10 prospect lists and on the cusp of making the 25 man roster in the 2008 season with another good season, where he will probably play at AAA Fresno.

Giants Thought

Giants fans have been wondering how the Giants can run in 2008 when the roster is basically the same, slow, non-stealing crew from last season. Roberto Kelly's Augusta teams provides a template for what they could be like. Obviously players like Molina, Alfonzo, Aurilia, and Frandsen are not going to suddenly sprout wings and start stealing 10 bases a season. However, Roberts and Davis will set the tone up at the top of the order, and players like Winn, Lewis, Rowand, Ortmeier (he stole double-digits bases the past 5 seasons, all his full-season years), and Vizquel are capable of providing double-digit steal totals. Teams that force the issue like this on the base paths can pressure the defense into errors, mental or otherwise, that can lead to rallies.

Now, it won't transform the team into a serious contender, but that's not the point. The point is changing the attitudes of the players who are on the team and want to remain on the team (that is, remain in the majors and/or Giants). That is to show any future player the Giants seek to get that they are the right team to join (or so the Giants management's thinking goes).

As I and others have noted, the Giants as they are today isn't that far away from .500, they could even be there today if the pitchers can develop and progress as hoped while the offense hits as well as projections suggest, as I have shown with my Pythagorean calculations, Bill James projections, and lineup analysis. We can be one good trade, one good signing, or one good development away from being competitive (85+ wins) again.

Bill James Projections

I thought I would check out what Bill James projects for the Giants pitching staff. Using his numbers for Cain, Lowry, Correia, Zito, Wilson, Walker, Hennessey, Chulk, Kline, Sanchez, and Misch (I used CHONE for Lincecum since there was no projection for him), who are expected to comprise the pitching staff in 2008, I got an aggregate ERA of 3.82. Now, that could get worse as there is still another 120+ IP to account for, so either lesser pitchers will pitch those innings or the pitching staff above could be pushed hard and do more poorly.

Adding Randy Messenger, who would be the next logical pitcher to add, should the Giants expand to 12 pitchers, would raise the ERA to 3.88. Adding Jack Taschner, assuming pitchers will move up and down, would keep the ERA at 3.88, and bring the IP to about that of 2007.

That results in a runs allowed scenario of 4.20 runs per game. That is what the offense is expected to produce, based on Bill James projections for the offense and the lineup analyzer, resulting in an expected .500 team for the Giants in 2008.

12 comments:

  1. Howdy Martin,

    I wrote about the base stealing idea a little on my site but I think I'd much rather the team focus getting on base (however possible) than trying to run, run, run, once they are on base.

    The team OBP was really poor last year (I think 15th or 16th in the NL, and that's with Bonds' usual .400+ OBP) and I think the team is going to do more harm than good trying to steal a bunch of bags. Turning a already weak offense into something weaker.

    Outside of Roberts and Davis, I'm not seeing many guys who can steal bases at good, productive rate of 75% or better. Maybe Ort (but most likely not enough to make up for his near .700 OPS) and as we both know, Randy Winn has been a bad base stealer in his career. I've often heard that the break-point is way closer to 80% than it is 70-75%. I'm trying to plan on doing a win-share study on the effects of stolen bases and how much they're worth, also how much they can take away from scoring when you get thrown out.

    I love the speed of Roberts and Davis but I think trying to turn the Giants into a base stealing team, regardless of perceived "attitude" changes to the team, is like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.

    You seem to be well read on baseball analysis, do you have any good links or articles that deal with the stolen base? I've been looking for something but haven't found much. I'm still searching though.

    As for the Bill James projections, any reason you used them in particular? I've been less than impressed with the James projections because they seem to overrate prospects by quite a bit and I've heard that they are a crude projection, not as complex or thorough as ZiPs or PECOTA which I generally like much more.

    If the offense manages over 4 runs a game I'll be shocked, or at least pleasantly surprised ;)

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  2. Yes, getting on base is always better, I think that's obvious. But why not optimize things when you are on base as well?

    I recommend reading Baseball Between the Numbers by Baseball Prospectus, it has a lot of great chapters and thought provoking articles. For example, I used their info on playoff success as the base for much of my arguments here regarding how to rebuild the Giants. Chapter 4.1, "What if Ricky Henderson Had Pete Incaviglia's Legs" talks about stealing bases, and the break-even point varies by situation, but within a team's R/G context, the breakeven is around 70% for the lowest scoring teams, 69% for the highest, also varying slightly by whether you are the home or visitor. So essentially 70% in general.

    The only time the breakeven is near the 80% you mention is when it is around 75% when you are behind by 4 or more runs. In most close games, and we should expect a lot of them with our pitching staff, breakeven is around 70%, as expected since that is about the mean in general.

    I think people worry too much about Ortmeier. If we were counting on him to be a big part of the offense, then yeah, but right now the more important batters are 1-5, Roberts/Davis, Frandsen, Winn, Molina, Rowand. 1 and 5 are probably above average OBP, 2-3 slightly below, 4 way below. If Durham can return to any semblance of his hitting before, he bats 4th and his OBP should be OK there, though probably still below average, just not way below like Molina.

    Sure, it would be nice to have a great hitter at 1B (or even 3B), but that's more for a team that is trying to be competitive in 2008, not one that will be around .500 at best, and in transition. In any case, the Giants are probably closer to competing for the cellar in the NL West than for the title in 2008. It would take a lot of huge breakout performances, particularly from Durham, Ortmeier, Frandsen, and Schierholtz, in that order.

    I use Bill James because I have his book and the data is available for free at the moment at FanGraphs, so anyone here can access them easily to check if I did things right or not. CHONE is also there, as well as Marcel. I figure he's a well known figure and I would get less complaints about using his numbers instead of making my own projections.

    FYI, I have a problem with mechanical projections in general because they don't take into account nuances like Roberts not hitting well early because of injury but then he hit like normal afterward. Most projections would view 2007 as a decline in skills and project accordingly, whereas I think he can repeat his second half in 2008, barring injury. But I understand that they need to do that because of so many players to do in one big batch, but I'm not restricted by that because I'm concentrating on just the Giants.

    PECOTA requires a subscription which costs money and I don't have one (hence why I finally yielded to adding ads here, I'm hoping to finance a subscription there and to Baseball America).

    Also, as math oriented I am, their metrics are "whoosh" over my head, I don't really like black box calculations that are hard to understand. It took reading Ron Shandler before everything made total sense to me, I knew bits and pieces about peripherals and such before with BP's help, but I never fully understood everything until I read Baseball Forecaster. I would use Shandler's numbers except that they are not publicly available.

    I wanted that transparency so that I'm not dragged into a "where did you get those numbers" type of arguments. I figure Bill James is respected enough to minimize that. I mean, how successful has BP been with their projections? Have they ever covered how good they have been? Or how much better they are than another publication?

    ZiPs I wasn't too impressed with years back, I felt that they were too negative with the Giants projections, but I haven't checked them out recently so perhaps they are better now. They also don't talk about their success (and to be fair, neither does Bill James), so it is nice that they have a nice black box methodology that he think is the best, but I want to see proof that they are actually good, successful projections, else Bill James are as good as any of them as far as I am concerned.

    And I guess I was being a bit petty as well (we all have our vices), they put up my baseball draft research article up for discussion there and ripped it apart without even bothering to invite me over for a discussion and for me to explain what I was doing and what I meant. I know I'm not the best baseball researcher around, I'm sure there are methodological problems that could be fixed, I just didn't have access to such data else I would have been happy too.

    But there wasn't many (if any) constructive criticism in the whole batch of comments there, the people there don't care about research or a dialog, they just want to have fun, which I understand, but I put a lot of work into the research and while it's not the best in the world, I know that there was some value to it if they would have bothered to open their eyes instead of going with their gut reaction.

    Still, I used to go back there anyhow, I'm not stupid, if they have good info I would still use them. They have good discussions there sometimes, but I found the Giants discussions there lacking because the "expert" who posted there wasn't a Giants fan and got some salient points wrong, showing that he got his info from national news and not local news, and I figured I could do better on my own. Once that allure was gone, I pretty much stopped going, and I don't see many sites using ZiPS.

    That's why I stopped buying all those annuals magazines for baseball over 20 years ago, most of them were written by someone who is a baseball writer, not a Giants fan who knows all the nooks and crannies of info, details that either get glossed over in such publications or are just so wrong.

    Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Hey Martin,

    Sorry it took me so long to reply, busy weekend!

    >> The only time the breakeven is near the 80% you mention is when it is around 75% when you are behind by 4 or more runs. In most close games, and we should expect a lot of them with our pitching staff, breakeven is around 70%, as expected since that is about the mean in general.

    Yeah, I've read similar. It really matters on the game situation. I've also read that from the 7th inning on, the % needed to make steals valuable raises greatly.

    It's not so much that sac bunts or trying to steal bags are always bad, but managers do tend to over use them and in the worst situations (late in the game for example).

    >> I use Bill James because I have his book and the data is available for free at the moment at FanGraphs, so anyone here can access them easily to check if I did things right or not. CHONE is also there, as well as Marcel. I figure he's a well known figure and I would get less complaints about using his numbers instead of making my own projections.

    I like Chone and Marcel a little better than James, both are projections that have come a long way.

    If you're interested in PECOTA and how it stacks up to other systems, BP did a study in the follow links. Seeing how PECOTA did with hitters and pitchers.

    Part 1 - http://www.baseballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=564

    Part 2 - http://www.baseballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=569

    For the hitters, PECOTA and ZiPS did really well. PECOTA and CHONE did well for the pitchers.

    As for "black box" forumlas, I can't fault BP for not releasing their formulas. It's one of the ways they make their money, by developing their proprietary formulas. I don't expect Coke to tell me their formula either ;)

    >> ZiPs I wasn't too impressed with years back, I felt that they were too negative with the Giants projections, but I haven't checked them out recently so perhaps they are better now. They also don't talk about their success (and to be fair, neither does Bill James), so it is nice that they have a nice black box methodology that he think is the best, but I want to see proof that they are actually good, successful projections, else Bill James are as good as any of them as far as I am concerned.

    Give ZiPS another look. It's really come a long way and Dan does some great work. I've never considered them to be "too negative" towards the Giants either. But, most fans of teams, think projections sell their team short. It's part of being a fan, always having more hope for your team than other people.

    >> And I guess I was being a bit petty as well (we all have our vices), they put up my baseball draft research article up for discussion there and ripped it apart without even bothering to invite me over for a discussion and for me to explain what I was doing and what I meant. I know I'm not the best baseball researcher around, I'm sure there are methodological problems that could be fixed, I just didn't have access to such data else I would have been happy too.

    They posted your article on Baseball Think Factory? Or Am I missing something?

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  4. No worries, I was busy too!

    No they didn't post my article on BTF, they referenced my article via a link and then "discussed" it.

    My article was originally posted on Yahoo's Giants baseball website when I used to work as a unpaid volunteer for that website (yeah, they allowed any idiot willing to write on the Giants a writer's spot :^).

    >> Yeah, I've read similar. It really matters on the game situation. I've also read that from the 7th inning on, the % needed to make steals valuable raises greatly.

    Actually, the success rate goes down with every inning, I guess because of the importance of getting that extra run, it makes the value that much greater and thus the success rate breakeven goes down. By the 9th inning, it goes down to 60% for the visitor, about 57% for the home team.

    >> I like Chone and Marcel a little better than James, both are projections that have come a long way.

    Thanks for the links! Unfortunately, they didn't bother to include Bill James's projections, so we don't konw what the comparision would look like.

    Looks like ZiPS did well for hitters but poorly for pitchers. Perhaps that's where I saw the problems with their forecast. I don't think that I'm that much of a homer that I overestimate greatly what they can do, I basically do what Marcel does, look at the past three years.

    CHONE on the other hand, was better with pitchers and worse with hitters. Maybe I can use ZiPS for hitters and CHONE for pitchers? :^)

    What I mean by black box, I understand wanting to keep things proprietary, I only meant that I could not even understand what they explained about their system.

    And it wasn't just negative, if he was high I considered the system bad as well.

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  5. Just overall I thought he was negative and perhaps that was his problem with pitchers...

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  6. Martin,

    Yeah, I noticed that James projections weren't included in the BP pages either. I wonder how he calculates his projections? I'll need to search more for it but I've heard they are very basic, that's about all I know. And the fact that his projections always seem to rate young players very highly.

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  7. He doesn't give a detailed explanation in his book. He writes that "we project, basically, that every player will continue to do in the future whatever he has done in the past... We're pretty close to right most of the time, because most players in any season will conintue to do about what they have done in he past. Of course, we change the player's projections based on their age and some other things."

    About young players, he addresses what seems to be your concern: "I can't really stand that [Tulowitzki projection missed extensive playing time in 2007], that's a gutless projection. As I see it, nobody really expects us to know in Octomber, 2007, which rookies will have how much playing time in 2008; we do the best we can to figure it out... Or job, in my mind, is to answer this question: If this young player gets a chance to play, what will he do? What will his hitting stats be?"

    "...I hate the Tulowitski-type projections because we gave a projection that was timid and compromised, rather than bold and plain spoken."

    He says in the book, "What use is it to anybody to say that a young player is going to have 105 at bats and hit .257 with 2 homers? In 105 ab bats, anybody could hit .257 with 2 homers, Alex Rodriguez or Adam Everett, Albert Pujols or John Flaherty. What use is it to show numbers that could be anybody's? If that's the only thing we have to offer about a young player, we should just keep quiet."

    FYI, Marcel is about as basic as can be, and is about what I used to do for my projections, relying on the past three seasons worth of data. Again, I used to tweak it for what I thought was realistic adjustments but tired of trying to justify my methods and took the lazy route of using other projections.

    I will take your advice to heart, and try out the ZiPS and CHONE for hitting and pitching, respectively.

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  8. I decided to take a look at the Giants numbers since you recommended ZiPS.

    For the most part, very similar to Bill James numbers, but are projected as worse overall. Only 3.94 runs per game vs. 4.20 for the Bill James projection.

    Major differences include:

    * Durham .319/.382 vs. .337/.410
    I can't quibble with that, who the hell knows with Durham. The other three systems are similar though, so ZiPS assumes the worse about Durham. Fair assumption given his age and horrible 2007, but it is also fair to think that he just had an off-year, he's been a very consistent .800+ OPS hitter most of his career and the .638 OPS he had in 2007 was a steep drop, particularly given no apparent injury to explain it. According to recent articles, he claims that he noticed that he started to drop his hands while starting his swing, making it longer for him to swing and harder to hit, so he looks to be better in 2008. Projecting .800+ would be being too much a fan, but to expect a bounceback of some sort is reasonable. The question then is whether to weigh 2007's poor results more than what he has shown during his career, which is what ZiPS essentially does, or to assume the skills he had before is still there to some extent, which the other projections do. Given no apparent age related health problems and a logical cause of the problem (the dropping of hands), I think the latter is more reasonable.

    * Vizquel .314/.308 vs. .325/.325
    Whatever age factor he uses, he appears to severely cut down a players numbers once the player slips up. Again, fair enough. But whatever problems Vizquel had in April/May, he had fixed it by the second half: .284/.295 in H1, .329/.342 in H2. That makes Bill James .325/.325 projection much more likely in my mind than ZiPS .314/.308. Still, didn't make a big difference overall if he's batting 8th.

    * Roberts/Davis
    Both systems mark down Roberts, but when healthy he regularly (last three seasons) hits aroung 750 OPS, so I don't like either projection, but James is even more negative than ZiPS in this case .338/.349 vs. .339/.372. But ZiPS is more negative for Davis, so that averages out when viewing the leadoff position.

    I think both will be wrong on Davis too, not that I think he's that good overall but lifetime he has hit LHP very well (perfect for platoon) and he is going to face predominantly LHP in 2008 as Roberts platoon partner.

    Between the two, though, it's a push between the two methods, I just think both will be wrong by a margin, though I did not take that into account in my offense projection.

    * Rowand .340/.429 vs. .347/.473
    Big difference here. The way I see it, a so-so hitter can have one fluke season where he hit great but is ordinary otherwise. Rowand has hit great twice and had a good start on a third when he had his injury in 2006. It's a skill he has demonstrated in 2.3 out of the past 4 seasons but he needs to be more consistent in doing this, mainly by staying injury-free. I don't see how a good system can be so negative with Rowand, and that's not homeboy thinking. The .769 OPS forecasted by ZiPS is barely above the .736 and .745 of 2005 and 2006, and doesn't recognize that he has had two seasons of .905 and .889 in the past 4 seasons. At worse, if you average the 4 as a projection and that would be .819, and if you add the totals together it would be even higher since he had less at-bats in the injury year.

    * Frandsen .322/.367 vs. .330/.407
    Since he hasn't proven anything, a lot of this is conjecture, though obviously based on his AA/AAA experience, which hasn't been the greatest. Still, his MLE according to Minor League Splits is .694, above the .689 forecasted for him, and he hit .710 in extended though sporadic play in 2007, so to forecast .689 seems harsh to me since his AAA and MLB experience is above that. The .737 OPS forecasted by Bill James makes more sense: being young, he should improve on 2007, plus with more playing time he should hit better as he gets regular play, plus he hit extremely well in September when he was given the chance to play regularly. ZiPS seems overly harsh in this context.

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  9. Hello from deepest Africa, Martin. the screen and keybord re largely in dutch, so I hope this will be readable. Great to finally find a 386 computer and get SOME news on the giants. this is a great article, Martin, and has me very excitied. I always appreciate your rational excitement and optimism regarding the giants. I'm looking forward to getting away from the lions and elephants and back to the giants. I have two days of flights to return. I'll post then.

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  10. >>> Fair assumption given his age and horrible 2007, but it is also fair to think that he just had an off-year, he's been a very consistent .800+ OPS hitter most of his career and the .638 OPS he had in 2007 was a steep drop, particularly given no apparent injury to explain it.

    I'm going to disagree with you on "it was just an off year" it was an off year, but it was a heck of an off year. You already said it, but Durhams age and perennial leg problems don't give him a big chance for a big bounceback. He should bounce back SOME though, but I don't think it's going to be anything near his previous performances. His BABIP was extremely low and if he regresses towards his career numbers in regards to BABIP he should bounce back a little, but still a far cry from his former self. And a far cry from a major league starter. All the projections I've seen give Durham credit for bringing up his BABIP some in '08, but it's not going to save him.

    Durham's great 06 was in part because of a flukey HR/F%. He hit 16% of his flyballs out of the park and it was a career high for him. He'd only ever once been in the double digits for HR/F% before (in 2004 it was 10%) and he came back to earth in 2007 with a HR/F% rate of 6.7% still under his career average of 9-something. HR/F% is a indicator of how hard a player his hitting the ball, and with the large drop in Durhams percentage, I think its fair to assume that he's losing power, bat speed, or something corollary to his hitting. His LD% was also very, very low in '07 which could also be attributed to a decline in hitting skills. It happens, he's into his mid-30's and second basemen have notoriously short life spans. Durham has done great to last this long.

    >> the question then is whether to weigh 2007's poor results more than what he has shown during his career, which is what ZiPS essentially does, or to assume the skills he had before is still there to some extent, which the other projections do.

    OPS by Projection

    James - .747
    Chone - .743
    Marcel - .743
    PECOTA - .717
    ZiPS - .701

    At most you're arguing over 30-ish points of OPS, which still isn't going to make Durham a good option to start. Yes, ZiPS is the hardest on Durham but it's not unnecessarily hard on him. Give his age, injuries, and the short life span of second basemen, I can't argue with any of these projections. I can't tell you how ZiPS weights years, I'm not Dan, but I don't think it places a large emphasis on the previous years performance like you might think. How many 36 year old 2B's are still even in the game right now? I honestly can't think of any off the top of my head besides Kent and Biggio (who retired).

    >> According to recent articles, he claims that he noticed that he started to drop his hands while starting his swing, making it longer for him to swing and harder to hit, so he looks to be better in 2008.

    I take this with a HUGE-MOLINA-SIZED grain of salt, after all its Spring Training or the time of the year where everyone has fixed their problems, added 15lbs of muscle, and is ready to have a career year. Just like when Feliz undertook a rigorous offseason hitting program, I'll remain skeptical of any mechanical flaws Durham has supposedly fixed.

    >> Projecting .800+ would be being too much a fan, but to expect a bounceback of some sort is reasonable.

    Yup. And I think "some bounceback" for Durham, at this point in his career, is a .740 OPS, if he's lucky.

    >> The question then is whether to weigh 2007's poor results more than what he has shown during his career, which is what ZiPS essentially does, or to assume the skills he had before is still there to some extent, which the other projections do.

    Once again, I or you, don't know how ZiPS weights its years. Just because it gave Durham the most "pessimistic" projection, doesn't mean its placing the most emphasis on 2007. I'm sure it's taking on historical comparisons, age factors, and a bunch of other stuff. We didn't devise the projection system, so we can't try to explain it's inner workings.

    I don't have any problems with any of the projections, I can understand why it's skeptical on Rowand. Despite what he hit on the road, I think he'll take a hit by the switch of hitting environments.

    >> and doesn't recognize that he has had two seasons of .905 and .889 in the past 4 seasons.

    I think the system DOES recognize that but it also recognizes that they both happened in two extreme hitters parks. So this system is going to be skeptical when he's moving to a much tougher environment to swing the bat in. I kow you're fully aware, but hitting environments are a big deal in evaluating a player. 30 HRS in vintage 1999 Coors Field isn't the same as 30 HRS in 2007 Petco Park.

    I'll let you read over this, now that I felt like I've written a mini-book ;)

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  11. Yes, quite a read! :^)

    The thing that you totally mis-read is that I have no problem with the other projections of Durham, just ZIPS. I didn't know PECOTA - because I don't subscribe - but I do respect that they try to find comparables to give their system an idea of where Durham's future lies.

    Still, what you totally did not get was that I never said Durham's numbers were acceptable as a 2B or that the others were wrong. My premise is that if Durham is anywhere near productive - and a mid-700 OPS is productive, just not average - he will start at 2B with Frandsen getting 3B. The ZiPS projection drops his production relative to the others nearly 0.1 runs for the team.

    I never said anything about 2006, you really need to read more carefully. I know about 2006's huge flukeyness with HR/F, I never said that 2006 is a baseline to rely on, you appear to be trying to find something wrong with Durham and pin that on my analysis.

    FYI, since you brought it up, the standard on HR/F% is 10% for pitchers, but the standard for hitters is his career baseline. Fangraphs has Durham's career HR/F% since 2002 as 9.8%, so it appears that 10% is the mean he should regresss to. In addition, he had a similar season in 2003 with a 7.0%, which is not far from the 6.7% he had in 2007, so while 2007 was an extreme for him, it was not out of the ordinary, in terms of HR/F%, it was his BABIP that really killed his production.

    Yes, hitters decline, but they don't normally fall off the cliff like this, there is a natural decline in ability to hit, not a total absence. His career BABIP is .308 even with the poor 2007 of .238, good hitters don't normally change so suddenly without any apparent injury, there is a bounceback nearer to where he was before - .800+ OPS - than to where fell to - .638 OPS.

    All I said is that ZiPS places more emphasis on 2007 relative to the other systems and that's because it is so much lower than the other systems. I know PECOTA uses a database of prior players to base their projections on, but ZiPS being less transparent about their system, it is totally fair for me to note that. It does not take a genius of analysis to see that is the likely emphasis of his system, most systems are very similar and for his to be significantly less than the others - even PECOTA - he must weigh 2007 more than the others.

    I never said that there is anything wrong with that, I just don't agree - with projections such an art still, I understand weighing recent production more than ones in the past is an expected practice, the degree is where people differ.

    That's why I don't like mechanical systems, everything is a round peg but often there a square hole that it can't handle, that's real life, that's a given.

    Yes, Feliz had his annual "I now know how to hit" statement, we all know that, you forgot to mention Durham's - which would have been more appropriate for your argument - annual "I listened to our training staff" statement, when he never really followed much, if any, of the staff's suggestions on how to prepare so that he can stay healthy throughout a season.

    >> Yup. And I think "some bounceback" for Durham, at this point in his career, is a .740 OPS, if he's lucky.

    And see, we can agree that .740 is a reasonable bounceback. ZiPS has him at .701. That is a huge sea difference.

    >> Once again, I or you, don't know how ZiPS weights its years. Just because it gave Durham the most "pessimistic" projection, doesn't mean its placing the most emphasis on 2007. I'm sure it's taking on historical comparisons, age factors, and a bunch of other stuff. We didn't devise the projection system, so we can't try to explain it's inner workings.

    Again, as I noted above, most systems are very similar, there are relatively limited ways of projecting a season, you account for his career, recent years, age-related adjustments, cycle-of-career-related adjustments, ballpark environment, division environment. What's unlimited is how you account for each.

    PECOTA is the clear differentiator because of its database of former ballplayers that it draws comparisions with. ZiPS is even more pessimistic than PECOTA in that regard. If age was a huge factor in ZiPS process, it wouldn't have projected Durham to hit .800 OPS for 2007, which is about what he did for his career up to then. There would have been a decline of some sort relative to his career numbers, but .800 is about what you would expect for 2007 based on his career numbers, plus a slight decline.

    Here's where I think Durham shows his hitting skills were relatively intact, but power was damped down greatly, for whatever reason, but I think some age and mostly bad luck. His BB% was as good as ever, and his K%, while worse than his years with the Giants, was still at his career average - 16.2% vs. 16.0% career - and thus is an 83.8% contact rate, which is good, and his BB/K was 0.71, which is also good.

    Those are key indicators of a hitter's skills and Durham's 2007 stats are all within career norms, and more importantly, are all considered good levels still. Then you add the dollop for age and you get a decline.

    ZiPS has a MOLINA-SIZED decline down to .700 OPS, whereas most of the others are mid-way at .740-ish. I never said that wasn't reasonable, I just accepted that this is the projection and used it in the calculations. You were the one who read things into my statements.

    >> I don't have any problems with any of the projections, I can understand why it's skeptical on Rowand. Despite what he hit on the road, I think he'll take a hit by the switch of hitting environments.

    OK, I think we agree there. Here is Rowand's road numbers over the four years he's been a regular: .292/.346/.464/.809, with 31 AB/HR. The Bill James projection had him at .287/.347/.473/.820. Chone: .286/.353/.457/.810. But ZiPS: .274/.341/.428/.769. And he listed Rowand under the Phillies, so he didn't even take AT&T into account. Which looks out of sync with the rest of the other projections?

    >> I think the system DOES recognize that but it also recognizes that they both happened in two extreme hitters parks. So this system is going to be skeptical when he's moving to a much tougher environment to swing the bat in. I kow you're fully aware, but hitting environments are a big deal in evaluating a player. 30 HRS in vintage 1999 Coors Field isn't the same as 30 HRS in 2007 Petco Park.

    As I noted, ZiPS did not even take AT&T into account, he listed Rowand under the Phillies even though the Giants had already signed him when he released both the Phillies and Giants projections. And as I showed above, taking just his road numbers, no extreme park to skew, he still had pretty good stats to show for his performance. ZiPS was a full 40 points below what he did on the road.

    And don't lecture me about home park environments, I've been harping on Dodd Stadium for a long time now, I've been basing my thoughts on hitters on how they do on the road because the home park skews the averages greatly in some cases. I know how parks can warp a players stats, I've based all my thoughts on how Rowand would perform for us based on how he did on the road.

    Speaking of which, as bad as the Dodger and Padres home stadiums are as pitchers parks, Detroit and Cleveland's parks were pretty extreme pitchers parks when Rowand was with ChiSox. Still, he had a .907 OPS with ChiSox on the road in 2004.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Allfrank, hope you are having a grand time in Africa.

    Frankly, I'm optimistic if I think there is a good reason to be, and I'm pessimistic if I think there is a good reason to be. The offense looks like it is going to suck big time, the difference is in the degree one thinks its going to suck.

    What I think people are missing is that as bad as the offense is, the pitching is equally good, and the numbers from last season plus adjustments for 2008 suggests to me that the Giants should be around .500, though I would bet the under.

    Still, if Ortmeier, Frandsen, Durham, and Rowand can hit as well as they did in the past, I think the team can get past .500 easily. Of course, those are big "IF"s.

    ReplyDelete

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