Author Archive

Are Defensive Runs Saved Predictive?

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

 

by John Dewan

Defensive analytics have grown in leaps and bounds in the last decade. At Baseball Info Solutions (BIS), we eat, sleep and breathe defense, but there is always more to learn. A recent research project uncovered some remarkable new information.

One of the public perceptions has been that a player needs three full seasons before his defensive metrics provide a true indication of his defensive abilities. That has been my own personal rule of thumb, though I’ve known there is some reliability to sample sizes smaller than three years.

Based on the new research, BIS has found that Defensive Runs Saved based on as small a sample size as 350 innings in the field (about a quarter of the season) produces reliable results. This is a very significant finding.

The research produced another significant finding. Defensive Runs Saved is a better predictor than many other statistical measures in baseball even over limited samples. Most notably, DRS is a better predictor of future performance than batting average and OPS with partial season data.

We’ll have more on this in the upcoming book, The Fielding Bible—Volume IV, but here is a table that summarizes the results. We use the statistic called the correlation coefficient to show how predictive each statistic is—it produces a number between -1 and 1, with numbers near zero meaning no predictability and numbers near -1 and 1 meaning high predictability.

Correlation Coefficients of AVG, OPS, and DRS
Statistic 350 Innings 700 Innings
Batting Average 0.46 0.47
OPS 0.52 0.51
DRS 0.55 0.59

 

As you can see from the table, DRS is more predictive than batting average and OPS after just 350 innings. The same is true if you increase the samples to 700 innings.

In the study, we ran correlations of three years of defensive data versus the subsequent year’s DRS totals for position players. The first used 350 innings for DRS and 175 at-bats for batting average and OPS—both about one fourth of an MLB season—over both samples. The second used 700 innings and 350 at-bats. The full explanation of the study of the predictive power of Defensive Runs Saved as well as the rest of our latest defensive research can be found in the upcoming Fielding Bible—Volume IV, which will be released in early spring of 2015.

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How Do Shifts Affect League-Wide BABIP?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

by John Dewan

I was recently asked the following question [by Rob Neyer]: If infield shifts work so well, why aren’t league-wide BABIPs (Batting Average on Balls in Play) dropping? It’s a great question. Shifts are designed to to take hits away from certain pull-heavy hitters, and with the huge increase that we have seen in the number of shifts used across baseball over the last few years, intuitively we would think that this would affect the league’s batting average. And it does! However, the effect is almost imperceptible because the number of batted balls against a shift is still a small percentage of all batted balls put in play.

First, for reference let’s look at what the league-wide BABIP has been over the last 10 years, as well as the shifts data that we have been collecting at Baseball Info Solutions since 2010:

Season

BABIP

Shifts

2014

.299

13,789*

2013

.297

8,134

2012

.297

4,577

2011

.295

2,357

2010

.297

2,464

2009

.299

2008

.300

2007

.303

2006

.301

2005

.295

*Projected by year end

Based on research that we have done at BIS, we know that the shift lowers the batting average on grounders and short liners (the ball in play types most affected by the shift) by about 30 points. So far this season, the batting average on grounders and short liners on shifted plays has been .230, and on non-shifted plays it has been .265. That’s a significant difference. However, despite the shift being employed far more often this season than any previous season, it has still only been used about 10% of the time. Therefore, the overall batting average on all grounders and short liners in baseball has been .262, only a 3 point difference from the .265 average on non-shifted plays.

And that’s just grounders and short liners. If you factor in ALL balls in play, that 3 points gets diluted even further, because the infield shift has no effect on balls hit to the outfield. The league-wide BABIP this season is .299, but it would be .300 without the shifting. So, in general the shift is only going to lower the overall BABIP by about 1 or 2 points, and that gets lost in the noise when looking at year-to-year BABIPs.

However, just because it might be difficult to see the impact that shifting has had when looking at year-to-year numbers doesn’t mean that shifting hasn’t had a meaningful effect. So far this season teams have saved 127 runs throughout baseball by shifting. If we assume all those runs would have been earned, that means the league’s overall ERA of 3.80 would actually be 3.85 if teams weren’t shifting. So, the shift does make a difference.

On Tuesday, Tom Verducci published an article for Sports Illustrated supporting the idea that MLB should at least consider making the defensive shift illegal. The thought is that scoring in baseball has declined too much in recent years, so let’s regulate the options available to the defense to keep things more exciting for fans. However, as the data above shows, the shift is just a small part of run prevention. A difference of 1 or 2 points in league-wide batting average is nothing compared to, for example, when the pitcher’s mound was lowered after the 1968 season. While shifting definitely makes a difference, regulating it isn’t going to reverse recent run-scoring trends. In fact, by taking away the shift and limiting the strategies that teams can use to gain an edge, MLB would actually be making the game less exciting.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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Castillo wins it in the 11th after bullpen blows another late lead

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

by Luke Jett

After another rough outing for Cubs closer Jose Veras, is it time for manager Rick Renteria to make a switch? The right hander blew a two run lead in the ninth inning Friday night to give the Cardinals life heading into extra innings. In the inning, he surrendered the two runs, but only on one hit. He hit two guys and walked another, coupled with a passed ball, to recap a horrendous inning for the Cubs closer.

Is it time to make a switch? I was tending to lean on the small sample size and the relatively short outings so far. But after tonight’s debacle, it has me thinking maybe it is time for a change. Veras now has an ERA north of 12 in his four appearances and in both save opportunities, he has blown them. There is one reason Renteria would keep him in the closers role and that is for the chance that he bounces back and becomes a flippable piece at the deadline.

I find this theory highly unlikely, seeing as they have Veras under an option for next year. I would like to see Pedro Strop or Hector Rondon get a shot to close. Both pitchers threw scoreless innings tonight and Rondon picked up his first career save. The Cubs went through basically the same scenario with Carlos Marmol last year. You have got to wonder how long Renteria’s leash is on Veras.


With two outs in the 11th inning, Welington Castillo parked a three run home run and Rondon shut the door to give the Cubs a 6-3 win.  This all coming after Jose Veras blew another save. The Cubs led 3-1 going into the ninth before Veras allowed two runs on just one hit to go along with two hit batsman and a walk.

The Cubs had to come back once again after Yadier Molina’s second inning RBI single, the only run starter Jeff Samardzija allowed. Ryan Sweeney cracked a single into left to score Anthony Rizzo in the 7th to tie the game. The Cubs broke the tie with a sacrifice fly from Rizzo and a RBI single from Nate Schierholtz, which gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead in the 8th.

  • Rondon closed out the 11th inning to pick up his first career save and continued his scoreless innings streak that is up to 16 now.
  • Emilio Bonifacio went 1-3 today. He has reached base safely in all 10 games so far.
  • Schierholtz went 4-5 with a double and a RBI in the win. He raised his average from .185 to .281 just tonight. Early numbers are fun.

Tomorrow won’t be any easier for the Cubs as they will face Cardinal ace Adam Wainwright who supports a 1.29 ERA in his first two starts. He will be opposed by Cubs swing man Carlos Villanueva, who picked up the win in his only start of the year last Sunday against the Phillies. He gave up one run in five innings of work in that start. Let’s take a look at Wainwright’s scouting report.

MLB.com

Wainwright pitched well in a loss Sunday, hurt by two two-out doubles. He’s already walked six after issuing only 34 free passes in 2013. Wainwright is still trying to find the feel for his cutter, but he doesn’t believe he’s far from getting it.

Wikipedia

Wainwright has a sinkerball, throwing it in the 90-92 mph range. He also throws a good deal of cutters (85–88) and curveballs (72–76)That has dropped more than 8 inches before from top to bottom of the pitch. Less commonly, he also throws a four-seam fastball (90–94, tops out at the mid 90s) and changeup (83–86). He uses all of his pitches against left-handed hitters, but he does not use the changeup against right-handers. Wainwright’s most-used pitch in 2-strike counts is his curveball.

In spring training of 2013, he started incorporating an elevated four-seam fastball, making his curveball more effective.

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What I Did On My Winter Vacation

Monday, February 10th, 2014

by Seymour Butts, correspondent

As most of you are aware, I spent last week in Mesa, AZ at Randy Hundley’s Cub Fantasy Camp. The detail of the camp are not likely to be interesting to you with the exception of the usage, for the first time, of the new Cubs spring training facilities.

The Campers were actually the first individuals to use any of these fields for baseball. In discussing this with Randy Hundley the feeling was that it was a test run so that any issues could be identified before the professional players got on the fields. This was the case. There was an underground sprinkler issue that took most of the week to find and fix. In one of our afternoon games, the sprinklers came on and rotated circuits around that field for about 10 minutes. We were not on the field that was having pipe-leaking issues at the time, so it may have been the valves were mislabeled. The problem was there was no pattern or notice to the circuits changing and I, among others, got a nice shot of water in the back. At least it was about 80 degrees there that day.

There were 2 new coaches this year Bobby Howry and Mike Remlinger. We tend to think we know their personalities from watching on TV, we were wrong. You could not meet two nicer guys than these. Bobby was saddled with a poor team that thinned its ranks due to injury. He ended up as a pinch runner and outfielder due to this by Thursday. Remlinger had a smile that never left his face. And Raker, he drives a Prius. Thank goodness someone cares about the environment.

I’m going to try and show photos of some of the highlights:


This is one of four identical fields located at the west end of the complex. These are the fields we used Monday thru Friday. There is an elevated platform large enough that we had lunch there daily in the middle. It is wired to the hilt with outlets and Ethernet ports about every eight feet all around the periphery.

On Monday between games, we were all given a guided tour of the entire complex by the facility manager. Our first stop was the weight room:


We were told that this is not only the largest, and best equipped, weight room in the minors, but likely bigger than most all Major league facilities. The prior facility at Fitch park was roughly 30 by 40 feet, with less than a tenth of the equipment in this room.

In a rear corner of the weight room is the tub area. Some are hot, some cold, and one in the middle has a treadmill and underwater viewing windows.

Next we have the major league locker room:

And a class room for film review and even English language classes:

On Wednesday morning we had a visit from some of the Cub Minor league players who were already in town:

Among those present were Messer’s Edwards, Black, Johnson, Jokisch, and Vogelbach. Pay attention to the guy in the grey shirt. That is Dan Vogelbach. I saw him when he played for Boise and was fat. He is no longer lard laden, and looked very solid. C J Edwards can’t weigh more than a couple of bats.

Saturday we played against the former Major Leaguers in the first baseball of any kind to take place on the new Cubs Stadium.

There were of course a number of first for the stadium in that game. First Pitcher: Mike Remlinger. First Batter: Randy Hundley.

There were a number of other firsts of course, but the one I will remember is pictured below:


First DP turned: Seymour Butts. It was against the pros’ fastest runner, left handed batter Bobby Howry who uttered an expletive when he hit me a two hopper straight up the middle for a 6-3 dp.

Come to Camp! It’s a blast.

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Super Bowl Predictor System

Friday, January 31st, 2014

by John Dewan

After correctly predicting the Super Bowl winner 90 percent of the time over a 20-year period, the Super Bowl Predictor System is ready for mothballs.

Why is that?

Just like many of you, I am a fan of a specific team. I haven’t missed a Chicago Bears game since the start of Walter Payton’s career. In January of 2007 the Bears were going to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl Predictor System said the Bears were an overwhelming favorite. The Chicago media was all over this.

Except, Peyton Manning had something to say about it. Despite an opening kickoff return for a touchdown by the Bears’ Devin Hester, Manning led the Colts to an upset victory.

I should have quit while I was ahead. That Bears Super Bowl launched a performance slump where the Predictor System has missed five of the last seven Super Bowls. The overall record of the system is down to a 64 percent success rate. Not horrible, but with its recent record, here’s what I have to say: Sayonara.

For those of you who still want to know what the system says, it says that Manning is going to lose again. But I ain’t gonna bet against him a second time. The Seahawks won 7 of the 12 predictors, with two going to the Broncos, and three ties. The details:

Category

Win%

Team with Advantage

Points Scored

.553

Broncos

Points Allowed

.617

Seahawks

Point Differential

.617

Broncos

Fewer Net Passing Yards

.596

Seahawks

Rushing Yards

.532

Seahawks

Rushing Yards/Carry

.553

Seahawks

Opponent Net Passing Yards

.553

Seahawks

Opponent Rushing Yards

.596

Tie

Opponent Rushing Yards/Carry

.574

Tie

Opponent Total Yards/Game

.638

Seahawks

Turnover Differential

.574

Seahawks

Regular Season Record

.532

Tie

For old times sake, here’s how the system is designed to work. Each of the 12 predictors predicts the Super Bowl winner correctly 53 percent to 64 percent of the time. When taken together they have a greater success rate. However, now for the first time since we started the system, there is one stat that is just as successful as the 12 indicators put together. It’s Fewer Opponent Total Yards, which has predicted the winner 30 out of 47 times (64 percent). This too suggests that the Seahawks, the better defensive team, are going to win.

I’m picking the Broncos.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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