Archive for November, 2004

Shameless Plug

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004

I’d like to take this time to plug another good site. It’s called the Yarbage Movie Review. The name Yarbage may remind you of the Yarbage Cub Review. It’s one of my favorite sites, despite the writer selling out. Anyways, Chris gave me permission to post his latest review here. I highly reccomend you check out the site, but if I were you, I would subscribe to it via Bloglines or you will drive yourself insane by checking everyday to find no new review. Anyways, here is a sample of what you’ll find.

61*

Directed by Billy Crystal

Starring:
Barry Pepper: Roger Marris
Thomas Jane: Mickey Mantle
Micheal Anythony Ford: Whitey Ford

I was not alive for the original home run case between Mantle and Marris, so I was not aware of all the history between the two players. It must have been great pressure between the two as they raced for the Babe. Mith Sammy and Mark it seemed everyone wanted them to break the record and I was apart of it, so I saw what what happened. 61* gives many people a chance that did not know about the first chase a chance to learn about a little history.

Ford Frick was the commish of baseball caused a lot of the problems with his ruling making two different records for home runs, because of the different number of games. The movie was made for HBO; so many people did not see it right away when it was released. This is a chance for people to pick up a rare gem of a sports movie.

61* deals with more than just baseball, but the two distinct personalities of Mantle and Marris. Mantle is the movie star and Marris is the average everyday American. The best thing about 61* is the in depth relationship between the two sluggers.
There were many things I never knew about the two mainly for two reasons. First off I hate the Yankees, and second I was not around during this period of baseball. When you hear about how great Mantle could have been, it makes you wonder about his numbers if he had been healthy.

Crystal does a great job of weaving of the baseball and the outside relationships. There is great scene after Mantle moves in Marris when they are watching the Andy Griffith Show. Just the horror on Marris’s face is just priceless. The main sub-plot in the movie is the pressure of Media to break the the record. The difference between today and then was the Media was against the two players. There are many scenes that focus on Roger’s struggles as the people of New York turn against him and with his family. Everyone knows how Mantle was a loved a Yankee, but the fact that many Yankee fans would not root for Marris is just beside me.

Jane and Pepper do a great job of becoming these two players. You can really see the effect that the race does to Marris and Pepper really embodies the role. You can just imagine Jane as Mantle.

If you really like sports movies and baseball, then run out and buy this one tomorrow. This a rare sports movie that really takes a deep look into players lives and struggles they face. I imagine that if McGwire did not have Sosa, he would have been a lot more like Marris in the long run. The fact that Mantle got hurt, probably really hurt Marris with the media.

61* Score: 91

Go Check it out.

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The Wimpy Awards for 2004

Monday, November 22nd, 2004

The Wimpy awards go out to the player with the worst Wimpy Factor with enough at-bats to qualify him for the batting title at each of the eight starting positions (not including the pitcher, for obvious reasons).

There have been many innovative new statistics over the last twenty years that manage to quantify what could not be previously quantified, and others which allow us to better analyze individual elements of a player’s game. It’s time, I think, to go back to the early days of expanding statistics: stats that were potentially interesting and perhaps humorous, but told us absolutely nothing. How did Jack Morris do in night games in domes? That kind of stuff. Enter the Wimpy Factor.

The Wimpy Factor attempts, using the least involved math possible, to pit a guy’s power production against his body weight, a simple measure of his size, to find out who’s the worst power hitter, pound-for-pound.

The formula is: (Slugging Percentage*1000)/weight. There are many more sophisticated measures of a player’s power and probably more sophisticated ways of looking at the size of a person, but the simplicity allows for a) non-sabermetrically oriented readers to quickly grasp what’s being compared and b) me to be able to quickly figure it out.

Thus, a “little” guy like Marcus Giles at 180 pounds, but with a .443 slugging percentage, would end up with a Wimpy Factor of 2.46, but a monster like Tony Clark at 245 lbs. and with a .458 SLG would have a measly 1.87. So the higher your WF, the better your ratio of slugging percentage-to-weight. Simple. No park effects, no isolated power, none of the really cool stuff that makes baseball statistical study worthy of a Society.

Our Own Gabor Paul Bako II was the inspiration for the award: a career .331 SLG against 215 lbs. renders a paltry 1.54! I looked at him when he first became a Cub and said, “you know, it seems like a guy that big ought to be able to put a charge into a ball.” Then I learned the First Bako Principle: just because you are a position player doesn’t mean you can’t hit like a pitcher.

Today I’ll post the catcher and the infield. I’ll put up the outfielders on Thursday.

Drumroll, please:

CATCHER

name
SLG
WT
WF
Pierzynski .410 245 1.67
Kendall .390 195 2.00
Piazza .444 215 2.07
Varitek .482 230 2.10
Estrada .450 209 2.15
Lopez .503 224 2.25
Barrett .489 210 2.33
Rodriguez .510 218 2.34
Posada .481 205 2.35
Lieberthal .447 190 2.35
Martinez .492 190 2.59

Pierzynski

First off, let me say that only 11 catchers qualified for the batting title, and only Kendall had an SLG of less than .400 (.390). So it was select company. So, were we to lower the # of plate appearances there’d be some ugly Wimpy Factors on display. One of the "qualifiers" was Mike Piazza, who caught 50 games last year.

That said, this was a landslide. The 245 pound Pierzynski outweighed the next-heaviest catcher, Jason Varitek, by 15 pounds, and had a .410 slugging percentage, which topped only 195 pound Jason Kendall.

Props to comparitively small Victor Martinez, who ended up with a 2.59 WF. He’s no Wimpy. That’s a Popeye performance.

FIRST BASE

name
SLG
WT
WF
Erstad .400 210 1.90
Hatteberg .420 210 2.00
Martinez .461 230 2.00
Palmiero .436 214 2.04
Lee .504 245 2.06
Overbay .478 227 2.11
Nevin .492 231 2.13
Bagwell .465 215 2.16
Pena .472 215 2.20
Hillenbrand .464 211 2.20
Green .459 200 2.30
Delgado .535 230 2.33
Feliz .485 205 2.37
Casey .534 225 2.37
Thome .581 244 2.38
Wilkerson .498 206 2.42
Konerko .535 215 2.49
Teixeira .560 220 2.55
Ortiz .603 230 2.62
Pujols .657 225 2.92
Helton .620 204 3.04

Darin Erstad

No surprise at all. Erstad had a miserable season. Surprises included a 5th place finish for Derrek Lee, whose 245 lbs. put him as the heaviest first baseman (thankfully, Mo Vaughn didn’t have enough plate appearances). All of the qualifying first basemen topped 200 pounds, and the two lightest first basemen, Helton (204) and Brad Wilkerson (206) fared quite well even if you don’t factor in their weights.

Helton, in fact, posted a 3.04 WF!!!! That’s Popeye AND Bluto, all rolled up into one. The first base chart shows that the WF, at its extremes, is pretty obvious. The guys with the 600+ SLGs all finished at the bottom of the WF pile and the guys with the sub-.420s all at the bottom.

SECOND BASE

name
SLG
WT
WF
Castillo .348 190 1.83
Jimenez .394 195 2.02
Miles .368 180 2.04
Roberts .376 176 2.14
Belliard .426 197 2.16
Bellhorn .444 205 2.17
Kennedy .406 185 2.19
Boone .423 190 2.23
Womack .385 170 2.26
Polanco .441 190 2.32
Hudson .438 185 2.37
Durham .484 196 2.47
Kent .531 210 2.53
Infante .449 176 2.55
Loretta .495 186 2.66
Soriano .484 180 2.69
Uribe .506 175 2.89

Luis Castillo

Slap-happy Luis Castillo’s 1.83 gives him the Wimpy for second basemen. His slugging percentage was so low that he could have lost about 20 pounds and kept the award. Look at those weights — all between 175 and 210, and there are 11 of 17 between 180 and 200. I guess the requirements for a starting second baseman in MLB are pretty tightly refined.

Todd Walker didn’t qualify, but he’d have had about the same as Ray Durham and Grudz would have been near Polanco.

175 pound Juan Uribe of the White Sox put up a Pujolsian 2.89 WF this year, and lightweights Sorianto and Infante were lifted past Kent, whose .531 slugging led all second basemen, but he was too heavy to to place better than 5th in the Wimpy Factor.

SHORTSTOP

name
SLG
WT
WF
Counsell .315 184 1.71
Cintron .363 199 1.82
Guzman .384 205 1.87
Renteria .401 200 2.01
Eckstein .332 165 2.01
Gonzalez .419 202 2.07
Greene .446 210 2.12
Matsui .396 185 2.14
Clayton .397 185 2.15
Izturis .381 175 2.18
Crosby .426 195 2.18
Berroa .385 175 2.20
Vizquel .388 175 2.22
Lugo .396 170 2.33
Wilson .459 192 2.39
Jeter .471 195 2.42
Valentin .473 195 2.43
Furcal .414 165 2.51
Young .483 190 2.54
Tejada .534 209 2.56
Guillen .542 204 2.66
Rollins .455 167 2.72

Craig Counsell

Feeble Craig Counsell’s unbelievable .315 slugging percentage won him a Wimpy, and having 20 pounds on Eckstein didn’t hurt. There were some tiny guys playing shortstop, and Jimmy Rollins got the most out of his weight. Furcal looked good pound-for-power, and Guzman, Renteria, and Greene’s power output didn’t look too impressive when compared to their size. The general WF rule remains, however; slugging percentage has greater variance than weight, so SLG is the stronger determining variable in WF.

There are some tiny shortstops who hit for good power and some bigger shortstops who didn’t hit for power, so among the positions so far, SS has the jumpiest line if you graph weight and slugging.

THIRD BASE

name
SLG
WT
WF
Hinske .375 235 1.60
Alfonzo .407 226 1.80
Burroughs .365 200 1.83
Tracy .407 200 2.04
Freel .368 180 2.04
Crede .418 200 2.09
Huff .493 231 2.13
Randa .408 190 2.15
Mackowiak .420 195 2.15
Batista .455 208 2.19
Jones .485 210 2.31
Blake .486 210 2.31
Lowell .505 210 2.40
Chavez .501 206 2.43
Rodriguez .512 210 2.44
Rolen .598 240 2.49
Blalock .500 200 2.50
Bell .458 181 2.53
Castilla .535 205 2.61
Figgins .419 160 2.62
Ramirez .578 215 2.69
Mora .562 200 2.81
Beltre .629 220 2.86

Hinske!

Chunky Monkey Erik Hinske’s got some ‘splainin’ to do. His body looks like about 42 percent of his weight is distributed to his rump, but all them pounds didn’t translate to success this year. At least he has a Wimpy on his mantle now.

Rolen’s big body knocked him down to a 2.49, but the coolest thing on this chart is that Vinny Castilla and Chone Figgins are within 1/1000th of each other. Castilla’s Coors-pumped power made him look good, but he was dusted by li’l Chone!!! Melvin Mora pulled off a surprising second-to-last only to Beltre’s monstrous year. This chart seems to indicate that having the biggest third baseman doesn’t mean having the most powerful one.

I’ll do the outfield on Thursday, but now you know whom to take on the infield if your fantasy league has no salary cap, but a strict Weight Cap.

Congratulations, Wimpy Award winners. I’d suggest either slimmin’ down or powerin’ up unless you want another one!

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The Sunday News

Sunday, November 21st, 2004

SInce most of you can’t afford to have the news delivered straight to your doorstep when you wake up on a Sunday morning, I will do you the favor of bringing it to you, free of charge. So, without further adieu, here are the headlines today.

Cubs Considering Arbitration For Clement

The Cubs are likely to offer salary arbitration to free-agent starter Matt Clement by the Dec. 7 deadline, according to a source close to the situation.

To me, this makes no sense, we’re not the first national bank of Wrigley and if we’re going to sign Rusch for 2 million, he better be our 5th starter. As much as a love Matt Clement, he is not going to make anything under 6 or 7 million through arbitration, and that is something we can’t afford for our # 5 guy. We have other holes on this team that need to be addressed, so why not spend the money there. Unless the Tribune company has been thinking about going George Steinbrenner this year, this is a bad idea.

Alou goes to bat for Sosa

“He made a mistake,” Alou said. “He was wrong. But a lot of people make mistakes. He knows he made a mistake, and he asked for forgiveness. I forgive him. He’s a great player, and he admitted he was wrong.”…Alou also downplayed the notion of a major fissure between Sosa and manager Dusty Baker…”They get along great,” Alou insisted. “When you’re together for six months, you’re going to have your arguments, but I don’t think there are any bad feelings or bad blood, whatever was said. Dusty’s a great guy, Sammy’s a great guy. Everything will be OK.”

Not really sure why the Boston Globe is following this story, but apparently when you win a world series in Boston, your writers run out of Red Sox related material to complain and whine about. I have to wonder if Alou makes these comments because Sosa is his buddy or because he really believes this is the case. I don’t believe it for one minute. Look at the evidence.

  • Players smash Sosa’s boombox in disgust

  • Cubs fine Sosa for leaving early
  • Sosa rips Cubs for fining him
  • Wood and Prior both bash Sosa
  • Sosa rips Dusty Baker in a Dominican Newspaper about batting order issues
  • Alou comes to Sosa’s defense

That seems like a lot of evidence toward the team not wanting Sosa back compared to on statement by Alou. If I was a jury, I think I would side with the former.

Prior Sticks Opens Mouth and Inserts Foot

“Several Cubs participated in the inaugural Kerry Wood Strike Zone Celebrity Bowling Tournament on Saturday at 10-Pin Bowling Lounge in Chicago. Asked about whether a Sosa trade would benefit both sides, Prior said, “Sure. … you know, I mean, yes … no … I don’t know.”

Mark, PLEASE SHUT UP!!!! Don’t make yourself look bad to the media anymore. Do we really need to remind you of the media fit that Jay Mariotti gave you last year about an autograph session?

Cubs Have Huge Bat…In the Front Office

Entering his third full season as a general manager, Hendry is building a reputation as an influential force in the industry, largely because of his ability to build a consensus among executives with other clubs. It was Hendry, and not Boston’s Theo Epstein, Minnesota’s Terry Ryan or Montreal’s Omar Minaya, who shoved some square pegs into round holes to complete the Nomar Garciaparra deal only seconds before the trade deadline in July. While a Sosa trade is complicated by Sosa’s contract-which guarantees a 2006 option if he is traded-and no-trade rights, not to mention his unexcused absence on the last day of the season, it is no more problematic than was the Garciaparra deal that Hendry made happen.

A lot of people are worried about this offseason. Not me, because we have our big bopper in the front office taking care of things. With Hendry, I have no worries.

Kasper the Friendly Broadcaster Hired

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to call Cubs baseball with Bob Brenly on WGN and Comcast,” said Kasper, who signed a multi-year deal that begins with the 2005 season. “This is the best play-by-play job in sports and I look forward to being a daily part of the lives of the best fans in baseball.”

It doesn’t matter to me who the Cubs got, because I will have the MLB Extra Innings package next year, which means I can always watch the visitor’s broadcast if the home team’s play by play is brutal.

Well, that’s it. Enjoy your Sunday and GO BEARS!!!!

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Painted into a corner

Friday, November 19th, 2004

I’d like to expand upon what Anthony wrote yesterday. I’m scared. Very, very scared. I’m skeptical about getting Beltran. Looking at his VORP, Win Shares, and last 3 years’ performance he’ll stay around a .915 OPS, 60 VORP, and 28-30 Win Shares. That’s MVP caliber and I’d pay big money for that. That said, I don’t believe we’ll get him. With that premise in mind, I’m very concerned about the Cubs for the year 2005. We’re looking for the following positions to fill via free agency:
Closer
5th Starter
2nd Base
Shortstop
Left Field
(Possibly RF)

Half the starting lineup and 2 of the essential pitchers.
What’s scariest is that, apart from a little bit of a risk at 5th starter, they have NOTHING in the system to fill these positions.
The default closer would be, I assume, LaTroy Hawkins. The 5th starter would be…Mitre? I guess Richard Lewis and Neifi Perez would be 2b and SS respectively, and Jason Dubois would play LF.

I like Hendry, but it appears that he has painted himself into a corner this year. He’s GOT to fill these needs through free agency; he has no other choice. He has left himself with very little leverage, and I would expect some questionable signings.

I’d prefer that the Cubs do the following, in order of importance:
1) Get Renteria. Use the money you’re not spending on Alou. Offer him 4 years. If that fails, offer Nomah a 1 or 2 year deal.
2) Re-sign Walker for 2B at about 5 mil a year for 2 years.
3) Sign Lieber for 5th starter. He’ll just need to eat innings as #5.
4) Try for Cliff Floyd or Jermaine Dye late in the game. If that fails, give Dubois the chance to blow it. If he does, there’s always a Karim Garcia floating around.
5) Let Dempster/Hawkins close.
6) Trade Sosa. It’s only low on the list ‘cuz it’d be SO hard to do.
7) STOP SIGNING TOM GOODWIN AND JOSE MACIAS AND NEIFI PEREZ for more than the league minimum when they’re providing below replacement-level offense!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Geez, Dusty! Come on, Jim, this ought to be obvious!

This offseason ought to be a wake up call for Hendry to improve the bench and upper minors with above replacement-level talent so he doesn’t have to get pushed into something he — and we — will regret.

Comments or other players we should pursue, given that we’ve got some arbitration-eligible Zambrano/Patterson types who’re going to push up the payroll? I’d love to hear something that’ll put my mind at ease.

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Baseball Revolution #1: The Fouler

Wednesday, November 17th, 2004

This is the first in the Baseball Revolution series. These articles are an attempt to throw out conventional baseball wisdom and explore one particular baseball strategy to decide whether or not it would help a team.

This summer I became enamored with the book Moneyball. In addition to its great storyline, it contained a great deal of baseball theory. I enjoy the game of baseball in and of itself, but what makes it particularly attractive to a mathematically-minded person like myself is that there are just gobs of statistics out there to analyze. Want to find out what pitcher allows the most stolen 3rd bases? Or what hitter hits the best in the bottom of the 6th inning with two outs in night games on Friday the 13th? All that information is out there, all you have to do is grab it.

Using these kind of statistical studies, Moneyball shows how on-base percentage has been an underrated statistic in baseball – that walks can be just as important as hits and baseball conventionalist have ignored this fact for years. Slugging percentage is also an important measure of a hitter’s value, but the book specifically points out that on-base percentage is three times as important as slugging.

On one particular geeky evening, I took some of this year’s statistical data to analyze Barry Bonds, baseball’s greatest statistical abnormality. I found that if you removed all the at-bats where he got a hit, Bonds would have the following line: 000 AVG / 500 OBP / 000 SLG. I stared at these numbers and wondered: would a hitter with this line be a valuable player? A walk every other plate appearance but no hits otherwise? What if we made a lineup completely out of these players?

Later I was practicing softball hitting in the batting cage for our team’s fall league and decided to head over to the fastest pitching baseball cage. Let’s just say I’m not yet ready for the major leagues. I was able to make contact on just about every pitch, but every one of those hit balls went flying far to the right of the imaginary first-base foul line. After about three dozen fouled balls I laughed to myself that the only way I could ever get on base against a good pitcher was to try to foul off every pitch and look to get a walk.

I realized that this method of fouling off every pitch, not even looking to get a hit, would be a possible way to accumulate this “Hitless Barry Bonds” line of 000/500/000.

So that’s Baseball Revolution Concept #1: The Fouler. A hitter that only looks to get a walk by fouling off strikes. On-base percentage to the extreme!

The idea of The Fouler was intriguing, but I wanted to see how it would play out on the baseball field. To see if a team of hitters made up entirely of .500 OBP Foulers would have any success, I decided to write a simple computer program that simulated nine innings of baseball. It was remarkably simple because there were only two possible results to an at-bat: an out or a walk. The simulation essentially flips a coin at each plate appearance and counts up the base runners and runs in each inning until there are 3 outs. I ran the simulation 16,200 times (100 seasons of 162 games sounded good) and found that this lineup scored an average of 8.4 runs per nine innings.

Just to put that in perspective, the highest scoring team in baseball in 2004 was the Boston Red Sox with an average of 5.9 runs per game (and with extra innings, there were certainly fewer than 5.9 runs per nine innings).

It’s evident that a team full of skilled Foulers would be a dominant offensive force — without even putting a ball in play. While the impact of a single Fouler on a team has yet to be explored, sabermetrician Bill James offers his insight in his Historical Abstract:

Sooner or later, we’re going to get some little guy with limited athletic ability who just draws walks and punches singles, somebody will put him in the lineup in front of Albert Belle or Ken Griffey or Nomar of Juan Gonzalez, and the big guy will drive in 175 runs, and everybody else will go scrambling around looking for little guys who can get on base.

Now remember that I enjoy the game of baseball in and of itself, and hitting is an integral part of the game. If the game consisted only consisted of foul balls and walks, it wouldn’t be very fun to watch and the stands would empty faster than Moises Alou can be picked off at first base. But it’s still interesting to consider that this can be an effective offensive strategy.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Results of the simulation with different values of Fouler OBP:

OBP RUNS/9
.250 0.5
.300 1.0
.350 1.9
.400 3.4
.450 5.4
.500 8.4
.550 12.6
.600 18.6

If you’re interested in seeing the code behind the simulation, it’s written in Perl and the source can be found here.

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