Archive for January, 2007

Our SP Vision is Blurry

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

One of the things that frustrates me a lot about people who talk and write about baseball is when they begin to label a pitcher as a number. Things like “He’ll never be a number two starter,” annoy the crap out of me. The reason I say this is because as far as I know, and i’ve read the rules for 2007, Major League Baseball doesn’t have numbers for various starting pitchers. This is something that has been made up and as a result has skewed our impressions of various starting pitchers around the league. It’s caused us to devalue what precious little pitching talent the league has to begin with. Recently, I read a couple of articles that tried to define what the various rotation spots should look like. This was an attempt to remove our blinders and give us a clearer picture of what our rotation should produce from each slot. As you may have guessed, they come from The Hardball Times. On a quick side note, if you’re not reading THT, then shame on you. Plug them into the RSS reader you use and lose yourself in their wonderful baseball knowledge and research.

Here was some of Jeff Slackman’s findings.

After going through that procedure for all thirty MLB teams, we can make some generalizations. To start with, here are the averages for each rotation position:

Lg      #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
MLB     3.60    4.14    4.58    5.10    6.24
AL      3.70    4.24    4.58    5.09    6.22
NL      3.51    4.04    4.57    5.11    6.26

What immediately jumps out at me is how high the #4 and #5 ERAs are. If there’s one thing most people agree on when they talk about rotation spots, it’s that a guy with an ERA over 5.00 ought to be your #5 starter. As it turns out, fewer than half of major league teams could claim an ERA under 5.00 from their #4 spot.

In fact, only three teams in baseball got an ERA under 5.00 from their #5 spot: the Tigers (4.48), the White Sox (4.99), and the Padres (4.91). And if we adjusted for park, the Padres would sneak over 5.00. Only two other teams–the Giants (5.18) and the A’s (5.16) are under 5.50 from that position. Given the enormous difference between the best teams and the league averages, it’s all the more apparent just how valuable rotation depth can be.

To address the issue I raised at the outset, we can use these averages to come up with rough dividing lines between rotation spots. Armed with this data, you can take any pitcher’s ERA and eyeball where they would fit in to the average team’s starting corps. For instance, in the table below, if a pitcher is between 3.87 and 4.36, he is, on average, a #2 starter.

Spot    MLB     AL      NL

In other words, an AL pitcher who managed an ERA under 4.00 over 32 starts very likely qualifies as an ace. To take a few examples: Jason Schmidt is the “average” ace; a fringey #1 guy is Dontrelle Willis; an average #2 starter is Matt Cain, and the protoypical #4 is Luke Hudson. The rotation that was closest to major league norms was Milwaukee’s.

For those who are interested, here are last year’s complete results for all 30 major league teams:

Team    #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
ARI     3.10    4.20    4.60    4.90    6.39
ATL     3.49    3.98    4.76    4.95    6.88
BAL     3.76    4.72    4.94    5.71    8.45
BOS     3.84    4.54    4.92    5.15    6.95
CHA     4.28    4.52    4.54    4.85    4.99
CHN     3.33    4.25    5.02    5.78    7.40
CIN     3.30    3.72    4.60    5.27    6.34
CLE     3.27    3.99    4.33    4.72    5.63
COL     3.78    4.15    4.24    5.45    6.00
DET     3.64    3.84    3.85    4.07    4.48
FLA     2.96    3.65    3.99    4.58    6.56
HOU     2.55    3.26    4.20    5.26    5.92
KC      4.96    5.49    5.70    6.05    7.32
LAA     2.97    3.58    3.91    4.42    5.68
LAN     3.52    3.76    4.34    4.65    5.75
MIL     3.86    4.11    4.50    4.88    6.21
MIN     2.47    3.41    4.32    5.84    6.51
NYA     3.52    3.63    4.34    4.93    6.44
NYN     3.72    3.97    4.41    5.02    6.55
OAK     3.83    4.10    4.58    4.87    5.16
PHI     3.91    4.12    4.82    5.38    6.92
PIT     3.99    4.59    4.75    5.17    6.30
SD      3.41    3.64    3.78    4.22    4.91
SEA     4.22    4.49    4.52    4.67    6.03
SF      3.59    4.18    4.72    4.95    5.18
STL     3.09    4.12    5.10    5.68    6.59
TB      3.39    4.47    4.95    5.32    6.85
TEX     4.41    4.51    4.78    5.63    6.21
TOR     3.19    4.11    4.49    5.06    6.44
WAS     4.64    4.96    5.27    5.58    6.23

What I draw from this is a couple of things.

1. Not everyone has an Ace, as they are very slim pickings
2. It’s time to rethink what we consider a # 1 starter, a # 2 starter, and so on. (A number 1 doesn’t mean an Ace)

I’m in the process of crunching some historical pitching numbers of my own. I’ll have more results for you soon. In the meantime, enjoy this.

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What do you do when the NFL and MLB act like monopolies?

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Recently Joe wrote an article that said that Major League Baseball was discussing an exclusive TV contract with DirecTV. Under this agreement only DirecTV subscribers could purchase the MLB Extra Innings package.

I for one am very tired of major sports leagues acting like monopolists. If they choose this role, then they should be regulated and their anti-competitive actions should be estopped by the Justice Department’s anti-trust divsion. Of course we all know what the chances of that happening during the next two years are…you have a better chance of winning the lottery!

Fortunately Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has decided to go to bat for sports fans. Specter has announced that he will introduce legislation that will eliminate the NFL’s antitrust exemption. Baseball also has such an exemption and both sports have the right to “choose” whom they will broadcast with under the 1961 Sports Broadcasting Act. Furthermore, baseball is also protected under a 1922 Supreme Court ruling which decrees that major league baseball does not constitute interstate commerce. I do not believe that decision would be upheld if it were contested in today’s courts.

Sports fans should not be muscled into choosing their television provider because of these draconian arrangements. I commend Senator Specter’s efforts and urge all of you to support choice and contact your elected officials in this respect. I also urge you to contact and tell him what you think about exclusive contracts!

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How Bad Were We? – Leftfield

Monday, January 15th, 2007

In case you’ve missed the first part of this series, here are some links for you to read through.

Part IThirdbase
Part IICatcher
Part IIISecondbase
Part IVShortstop
Part VFirstbase
Part VI2003 Cubs vs. 2005 White Sox

Also, just in case you missed in, be sure to download the interview we did with Len Kasper last week that previews the Cubs 2007 season. You can find it at The Big League Baseball Report. Remember to sign up via iTunes, E-mail, or RSS when you’re there so you can always be updated when the new podcast hits the airways. Alright, let’s VORP the LF position for us.

1. Manny Ramirez – 66.1
Simply put, Ramirez arguably is the best all-around righthanded hitter in the league. He hits lefties and righties equally well, has tremendous power, even to the opposite field, and is not afraid to take the occasional free pass. His quick hands and good bat speed mean he is able to turn on most any pitch. Opposing pitchers will nibble around the corners against him with sliders and curves, not because Ramirez can’t hit them, but because anything over the middle to him is asking for trouble. ~ STATS Inc.

2. Matt Holliday – 56.8
Ask most common baseball fans outside of Colorado who this guy is and most will have no clue. However, in only his second full year in the majors, Holliday is quickly becoming one of the best LF in the game. With Manny another year older and the rest of this top five less than dominant, there is no question in my mind that Matt Holliday could be considered the best LF in the game next season. Mark it down in your books. He will lead this category next season.

3. Jason Bay – 49.7
Bay showed somewhat surprising power in his rookie season, pulling balls to left field with good loft in his swing. He also used the gaps well, especially the spacious left-center one at PNC Park. Bay can handle the best fastballs and sliders, though he can be made to chase slow stuff out of the strike zone. He showed good plate discipline in the minor leagues but has not displayed that skill so far in the majors. ~ STATS Inc.

4. Alfonso Soriano – 48.2
Well, we upgrade our LF with the number four guy in the majors. I’ll take that any day of the week.

For the fourth straight season, Soriano struck out at least 120 times and failed to draw 40 walks. He will swing at anything. When he’s in a groove, he can hit almost anything, but he is prone to long slumps. He will start to lunge at pitches and gets off balance. Then the strikeouts come in bunches.

Baserunning & Defense
When Soriano arrived in Texas, he made it clear he intended to stay at second base, because, he said, he was a two-time All-Star at the position. It certainly wasn’t based on defense. For the fourth consecutive year, he led all second basemen in errors. Most of those errors are “lazy” errors that seem to come when Soriano gets tired. As he wore down, the errors started piling up. Soriano’s stolen-base total dropped off in 2004, but that was more because he spent most of 2004 in the No. 3 hole. In the three previous seasons, he averaged 40 steals a year. ~ STATS Inc.

5. Carl Crawford – 41.1
A serious case could be made that this guy is one of the most electric players in the game today. He hits for average, can field his position very well, has average power and, oh yeah, can steal bases like the great Lou Brock. Want some proof? Here’s a clip of the game last year when CC swept for the cycle. It doesn’t get much better than that.

14. Matt Murton – 16.2
For as much junk as Murton took last year, he really had a decent rookie campaign. Here is a graph that shows Murton’s OBP compared to the league average for the first two years of his career.

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Until Later Today, Let’s Celebrate

Monday, January 15th, 2007

I’m working on the VORP post for Leftfield today. I’ll have it posted later on this afternoon. Until then, close your eyes if you’re one that is only for Cubs content on the site, cause I wanna gloat and celebrate a big win.

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Cubs in the News

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Here are a couple articles that were good reads.

Question: If Barry Zito is worth $126 million for seven years on the open market, then what is the value of Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano if they get to free agency in the fall?
Answer: More than the White Sox and Cubs care to know, albeit for different reasons.
For the Sox, whatever Buehrle’s worth—and it potentially could be more than Zito—is more than they care to pay.
For the Cubs, Zambrano’s future price—potentially above any pitcher in history—is something they would rather avoid by signing him soon.
The differing financial philosophies on the best young potential free agent pitchers is a continuing pattern this winter.
The White Sox are gobbling up inexpensive youth to stay good while the Cubs are spending gobs to get better.

For 12 years, under the presidency of Andy MacPhail, the Cubs never reached a salary-arbitration hearing with a player.
That streak appears to be in jeopardy this winter because of three tricky and interesting cases: Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano and Will Ohman.
MacPhail and his charges were of a mind that it was better to settle on a compromise salary figure than go through the arbitration hearing, which can become contentious and leave bad feelings.

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