Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Nats' Mr. Unlucky

I've just received my copy of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 in the mail today. I intend to post a full review of the book later, but my first hour with it has been a lot of fun, and I ran across something of interest to Nats fans. There is an article about Projected OPS, or PrOPS, a stat that THT has developed based on play-by-play data. The theory behind it is elegant. Rather than look at the tradition scoring outcomes (single, double, triple etc.) to figure OPS, they look at the type of batted ball and give the batter credit for the average type of hit that results from such ball. The intent is to strip out the luck involved in batted balls -- the sharp liner hit right at a fielder, the bloop outfield single, the fly ball in the gap. By comparing PrOPS and actual OPS, you can get a sense of which players were unlucky and lucky that year. If a player's PrOPS was higher than actual OPS, he was unlucky, and vice-versa. It's a bit like Pythaogrean records for hitters.

The book provides the top 25 players in PrOPS differential, both those with higher PrOPS than actual and lower than actual. Who is the only National player to appear on either list?

Cristian Guzman, whose PrOPS was 0.645 and his actual OPS was 0.573, so he was one of the 25 most unlucky hitters last year. The article also demonstrated a correlation that indicated most players in that situation have higher actual OPS the next year. So it does appear true that our favorite whipping boy had a tough year, and should be a better hitter next year. Of course, even a 0.645 OPS is nothing to get too excited about, but it looks like we'll need to find as many silver linings for 2006 as we can.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

So Much To Say

A veritable cornucopia of information to impart and discuss this Tuesday morning. I mean, what could ever have created such Nats news on a November 29?

But He Really Looks Good In Jeans Department

What happened to Billy Beane? Wasn't Moneyball written because Billy Beane had figured out how to more scientifically evaluate players, and to capitalize on inefficiencies in the market for baseball players? Somehow, Billy Beane walked right into the biggest inefficiency of the 2005 baseball market - RFK stadium.

Oh, sure, we at Nats Blog have highlighted the use-RFK-to-your-advantage-to-sucker-in-opposing-GM's strategy in the past. But we never thought that it would work on someone like Billy Beane. Billy Beane! fell for the RFK bait and switch, signing Esteban Loaiza to a 3-year, $21 million contract. Yes, that Esteban Loaiza.

Good old Stevey Loaiza had nice overall numbers of 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA last year. Sure, looks good on paper. Of course, most people would expect Billy Beane to look at how he did at RFK versus the road in 2005:

RFK: 6-4, 2.86 ERA, 96 H, 23 BB, 95 K in 110 IP
Away: 6-6, 4.71 ERA, 131, H, 32 BB, 78 K in 107 IP

If you judged his RFK performance, Esteban Loaiza was worth a lot of money. But Loaiza won't have the benefit of pitching half of his games in RFK next year - he'll be in Oakland, which had a 103 park factor last year (vs. RFK's 93 park factor). That's why it is so stunning that Billy Beane would spend so much money on Loaiza. After adjusting for RFK, Loaiza put up an ERA+ of 105 last year - a roughly league average performance, and equivalent to that of Brandon Claussen, a guy whose ERA was half of a run higher.

[Counterpoint - Jon Lieber signed a $21 million, 3-year deal last year with the Phillies after he had a 104 ERA+ season with the Yankees in 2004.]

But He Really Wrote Well Some Time Ago Department

Even more amusing than the apparent breakdown of Billy Beane is the breakdown of Thomas Boswell. Boswell writes in today's Post, somewhat oddly, that:
Esteban Loaiza, who led the Nationals in quality starts last season, is now an
Oakland Athletic. If Washington had an owner (one will presumably be named
before the next presidential election cycle), the Nats would have had the choice
in recent weeks to make a competitive offer to the classy free agent. Maybe they
would have matched Oakland's offer of $21.375 million for three years. Or,
perhaps, they wouldn't have. Loaiza will be 34 soon. The Nationals' brass
grumbled about his non-work ethic all season. And a 12-10 record with a 3.77 ERA
when half your games are in cavernous RFK doesn't make you a Hall of
Famer.

I guess Boswell is making the point that the Nats should have new ownership, and that the ownership should have the ability to at least consider re-signing Loaiza. OK, Tom, if you are saying that the Nats should have new ownership, great, we agree. But the Esteban Loaiza signing is not the vehicle to make that point.

In fact, I would argue the opposite - that the Nationals, without an owner, are making exceptionally good decisions this offseason. Boswell further writes:
But a Nats franchise with an owner would have had the option of making an
aggressive bid. In reality, they didn't. Washington's final offer to Loaiza ($8
million for two years) was somewhere between a joke and an insult.

I'm not sure when Boswell started considering a $8 million, 2-year deal to a league average pitcher a joke. But it clearly was recently. Elsewhere in Mr. Boswell's own fishwrapper, more details on the Nats' offers came out:
The Nationals will receive a first-round pick in the 2006 draft as compensation
for losing Loaiza. They initially offered him a two-year deal worth just more
than $8 million, and a club source indicated the team might have been willing to
go as high as $5.5 million per season. But Boggs said the Nationals never
offered more than two years . . .

Here we see that the Nationals were willing to go to an $11 million, 2-year deal, which is a very aggressive pursuit of a league-average pitcher. The Nats were unwilling to give a 33-year old pitcher a long term deal, again, a very reasonable position. It strikes me that the ownerless Nats are making good baseball decisions - does Boswell want someone making bad decisions in the ownership box? Making deals like Beane's with Loaiza - that Oakland will surely regret in 2007, if not in 2006?

But She Really Is Good At Changing Her Mind Department

Oh good grief, Linda Cropp is back trying to change the City's deal with MLB. I just hope that when they name a grandstand after her - no one deserves it more - it's the Linda Cropp Memorial Grandstand.

Luckily, Marc Fisher hits Linda Cropp's high, hanging slider out of the park today with his column. My favorite paragraph:
Let's remember that these council members who are suddenly so concerned about
cost overruns are the very same elected officials who oversee a government
that, as The Post's David Fallis and Dan Keating documented in devastating
stories this week, throws your money around like a million drunken sailors
and hasn't a clue how the loot is spent.

I guess that the difference between the two cost overruns is that the ones documented by Fallis and Keating are going to cronies of DC officials. If you are not friends with someone in the DC Government, I guess cost-overruns are taboo. Disgusting - especially since the potentially horrible glass-and-steel design demanded by the DC Council is causing the cost overruns.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Off-Topic: Televised Basketball

Forgive me this aside on a Nationals blog, but I need to make this statement, very clearly: ESPN's coverage of college basketball is abysmal. It has been abysmal for years and ESPN appears to be unable or unwilling to correct it. Specifically, the in-game coverage on almost every game they show is insulting to the viewers -- the announcers, the graphics, and the camera angles all fail to convey information about the game that is essential to understanding and enjoying the game.

We can start with the obvious, Dick Vitale, but I want to be clear on this: this is an endemic problem that goes beyond him. He is the best example of the main problem, however -- the announcers do not tell you about the game going on right in front of them. They rarely tell you how many team fouls the teams have. They rarely tell you how many personal fouls the players have. They often don't tell you about substitutions.

But the most frustrating lapse comes with about 10 minutes left in a close game. After 30 minutes of basketball, when plot lines and themes have been developed (some hot shooter is cold, a bench player is hot, a strategy is working or not working, etc.), they insist on talking about things in the media guide. Vitale is the worst at this. Instead of providing any analysis, he just continues to BS about factoids he knows, often the same factoids he's told you 15 times before in this very game, and 100 times before in previous games. You might as well be sitting in the stands with two blabbermouth fans who simply want to prove how much they "know" while not paying attention to the game.

Vitale's been doing this for over a decade. I vividly recall a game in 1992 when Duke was playing Virginia at Cameron, and Virginia was keeping the game very close late in the second half, despite being outmatched by what turned out to be one of the best college teams in history. If you could only listen to Vitale, however, you would never know this. He barely mentioned UVA's surprising run, let alone try to explain why it was happening. It was so frustrating I had to turn down the sound. And I'm a Duke graduate.

Plus, the directors completely fail to make up for this with good use of text and graphics. Is there any excuse for them not to constantly display team fouls, and whether teams are in the bonus? The arena scoreboard does, why not the TV board? And for every foul -- every one -- the player's personal foul total should come up. Similar for points, assists, etc., as they happen. There is simply no excuse for not providing this kind of information graphically in real-time.

I can recall only one game in over 25 years of watching college hoops where the announcer provided valuable information that complemented the pictures. It was in a 1997 second-round NCAA game between Iowa and Kentucky. The announcer filled all the dead space during free throws and fouls with stats (both current game and yearly), trends and keen observations. Who was he? Gary Thorne, the excellent hockey announcer, who makes the full-time college hoops broadcasters look like amateurs.

Finally, camera angles. Why do directors insist on switching to the under the basket angle during a live shot of a fast break? Don't they know that this will only serve to ensure that the fans at home won't actually see what happens? Can't they save those shots for the replay of the thunderous dunk which only happens about 10 percent of the time? Basketball is too fast a game to try to switch cameras on the fly, so directors shouldn't even try.

I should also not single out ESPN. CBS is pretty lousy too, suffering from the same shortcomings. It does make me appreciate how good many of the baseball radio and television announcers are, and wonder how much better college hoops would be with decent telecasts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Depressing Ladson article

When a guy (Bill Ladson) who has the job of slurping the Nats has a mailbag that reads this depressing for Nats fans, things are bad.

In his response to emailers, Ladson a) Dismisses an emailer' suggestion of Nomar Garciaparra with the back of his hand, saying "the Nationals have a shortstop named Cristian Guzman, who will play every day"; b) mentions over and over and over that the Nats can't sign anyone before they get an owner as they have absolutely no budget set until then, meaning according to Ladson, no Loaiza, no Garciaparra, no Javier Vazquez, no Juan Pierre. I'm not saying we would even want all/any of these guys, but Ladson's response to a question on each of them was that the "the Nationals don't have a budget because ownership is not in place"; c) doesn't really mention anything that fans can feel good about in the offseason (unless you count his belief that Armas won't be back).
Of course, this is the same guy that when asked what former Expos/Nationals he could have back in a fantasy world fails to mention Pedro Martinez and talks about our solid everyday players like Guzman and Byrd. Oh well. I suppose this is all if everyone involved in the stadium construction and lease fiascos don't kill the team for us. Hey. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Off-Season Blog Additions

While we await the bold, decisive moves Jim Bowden will make in the offseason, we've added some new links to other Nationals blogs that we like. Curly W is apparently named after the signature line of Charlie Slowes ... let's hope the blog stays around even if we'd like to see ol' Bang! Zoom! go back to the Devil Rays. Nats Triple Play is a tripartite blog like this one, but I sense that Nate does all the heavy lifting like yours truly. Just a Nats Fan brings a fresh perspective and much better blogging skills, though that is tempered by an unhealthy and irrational admiration for Gary Bennett. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's New is Old

The "new alternate jersey" looks just like the old alternate jersey. The "new" pinch hitter looks just like the "old" pinch hitter. It is getting more and more Soviet-like over at Nationals headquarters. Pravda is singing the praises of the latest success of central planning. I daresay the "200" fans who showed up might have been "incentivized" to appear like North Korean department store shoppers. And we will have an owner any day now, but for the National Disgrace that is our current Big Brother. All the while our 2006 hopes go down the memory hole ...

Friday, November 18, 2005

Moron Stadium Design [no typo]

The Post has an article on the latest version of the design for the baseball park in D.C. Again, we hear the themes that the stadium will be "modern" in appearance, with lots of exposed glass.

The new article fleshes that out somewhat. The key paragraph states:
The stadium, which will be along the Anacostia River in near Southeast, features an exterior wall largely made of glass and broken up by limestone portals, according to city sources who have seen the drawings. Aspects of the design create a translucent quality, offering fans inside views of the surrounding neighborhood and teasing those outside with glimpses of game activities.


To me, the fact that you can see the outside of the stadium from the inside is a real turn off. If you've been to the current area designated for the stadium, it is a hideously ugly area. Even if you assume that the development around the stadium will improve that somewhat, that will take years for such an improvement to happen. For the most part, this is a dirty, industrial area, with the exception of Fort McNair. Looking north on South Capitol, you see a web of expressway on ramps that is wholly ugly. We go to a park to see baseball games, not what is outside the baseball games.

In reading this description of the design, I have to agree with Jack Evans, who, upon seeing the design with his own eyes, said:
"Jack was like, 'No, no, no!' " said one city source involved in the discussions. "He thinks it looks like an office building."

The statement that it looks like an office building is even more disturbing than the bland description in an article. The District has way, way too many office building built in the glass-and-steel style from the 1960's and 1970's. They are a blight on our fair district; they are neither unique, beautiful nor memorable.

I part ways with Mr. Evans when it comes to a "red brick" structure. It has been my personal belief that the DC stadium design should evoke something from the District's history. I believe a design based on the Federal Triangle is the best way to go, especially given the beauty of the Fin-de-Siecle design.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the stadium design is likely to be approved by the City Council, rather than the ownership of the team itself. I think if, as the Post otherwise suggests today, that a baseball guy like Stan Kasten will be running the team, the new ownership will know best as to what stadium designs will work.

And I'm sure a see-through-stadium won't be something on the top of their list.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Stuff that ballot box!!

http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/sportsnation/polling?event_id=1765

I don't want just a plurality...let's go for majority, baby!!! Bowden for GM!! (of another team)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Pet Peeve

of mine is manufactured records, especially on the high school and collegiate level. If a person gets a record within the course of playing actual competition in the way games are supposed to be played, more power to them. But we seem to be reaching epidemic levels of people colluding to get records or twisting the ethics of competition in order to get them.

People do funny things when it comes to records. When Nykesha Sales got injured before the last game of the season one point shy of the UConn basketball career record, the head coaches of UConn and Villanova allowed her to come out in her cast, go under the basket, have the tip-off go to her, let her score a layup to get the record, let Villanova score a layup in return and essentially start the game 2-2.

What I find strange is why Sales would want such a record. I've also never understood why a great competitor like Brett Favre would lie down for Michael Strahan's sack record. Or why Strahan would let him.

Why did Lisa Leslie let her team give her 101 points in the first half against poor South Torrance when she was in high school? Leslie says it was a tradition that the captain got to score as much as possible in the last home game each year. But tradition is one thing and humiliation is another. Her opponents, one of the worst teams in the state with only 6 players total, played the game with only 4 players after two fouled out in the first couple of minutes. Leslie's team played 4-on-4 defense, and allowed Leslie to camp under the other basket where they just threw the ball down the court for continual lay-ups. The South Torrance coach was so outraged that he didn't allow his team to come out for the second half.

People even do crazy things for small individual numbers. Remember Ricky Davis trying to get
a triple double by throwing the ball off his own backboard and catching it for his 10th rebound of the game--only to find out that such an action does not count as an official rebound? Remember Allen Iverson in his consecutive 40+ point games being given shot after shot by his teammates and some opponents?

One of my biggest problems with this is the advantage in going second. You think if the person whose record was broken knew that her record would be broken in this manner, he/she (and her coaches at the time) wouldn't have made sure that she got a few extra buckets, yards, and so forth? Often I think records aren't made to be broken...they are made to be destroyed. Because only then can you be sure when you look back that the person who came along second wasn't pushed by the record itself to squeeze out an extra point or yard or at bat at potential cost to his team and the rules of competition.

I bring this up because last Friday night, a high school running back named H. B. Banjoman entered the last game of the season needing 334 yards to set the Virginia high school record. Yes, that's right...334 yards. Amazingly, after running the kid all night, he did accumulate 300 yards and his team, Warren County HS, was up 28-7 with about a minute to play and the other team had the ball at its own 27. At this point, Warren County's coach ordered his defense to lay down and give up a 73 yard touchdown. They did. Warren County got the ball back. And in what was likely a hurry-up offense, managed to get young Banjoman the record--he broke it, in fact, as time expired.

Am I the only one who is completely disgusted by this turn of events? The other team refused to shake hands after the game and the police were brought out on the field to quell what was obvious to everyone would happen after such unsportsmanlike play. In his defense, Warren County coach Heath Gilbert admitted that it was a "bush league thing to do," but said he had no regrets and that his defense was on-board with the idea so it wasn't forced too hard on them. No, Mr. Gilbert, of course it wasn't forced on them and they wanted to do it. They're teenagers. If only you would have been the adult, these kids might have learned something valuable Friday night. Instead they learned that individual records are worth torturing the rules of sport.

Poor Damone Boone, the former recordholder. Since I haven't looked it up, it only makes me wonder whether he attained the record in a similar fashion a decade ago. If not, it is a real slap in the face, and he can only hope that someone will go back and find a glitch in the recordkeeping of Banjoman's yardage this year. Or maybe next year, some coach will decide not to play defense all year just to see if his star running back can double the record.

The Awards (Dammit)

Yesterday, Alex Rodriguez was awarded the American League MVP. While I was neither shocked nor stunned by the announcement, the debate over who "should" win the award is always annoying.

Much of the debate focused on whether a designated hitter like David Ortiz should win the award, given that he does not play the field. I'm somewhat sympathetic to that argument because a good player in the field can add value to a team. The problem is that Alex Rodriguez is not someone who adds much value at the third base position. According to Baseball Prospectus, A-Rod is seven runs below average at the hot corner (and only 9 runs above a replacement player). So, all things being equal, A-Rod is actually a defensive liability. Should that be taken away from him? At least David Ortiz does not have the chance to hurt his team in the field. Luckily, A-Rod makes up for his lack of fielding with clear advantage in VORP over Ortiz (which is partially explained by A-Rod playing third base).

But what bothers me more in this debate is that pitchers are, for the most part, excluded from the MVP debate. Sure, there was Hal Newhouser and Guillermo Hernandez and Dennis Eckersely winning MVP awards in the past. However, for the most part, starting pitchers are excluded from the MVP debate because "they only pitch every five days."

What an unbelievable load of excrement. By the same logic, why shouldn't position players be excluded because "they only bat once every nine times"? While batters have an everyday impact on games, starting pitchers have a more intense impact on the games they pitch - they face every batter for seven or more innings. This is demonstrated by a two data points - batters faced and plate appearances. Chris Carpenter faced a total of 953 batters for the Cardinals this year. At the same time, Albert Pujols had 700 plate appearances. Thus, Carpenter had 36% more chances to impact his team's performance than Pujols did. If you compared two position players and one played in 162 games versus one playing in 118 games, all other things equal, you would say that the 162 game player was more valuable to the team. And that's exactly what happened in St. Louis.

You can also compare performances a little more directly. Imagine scaling back Chris Carpenter's statistics to 700 PA.

Here's Albert Pujols:

.330 AVG / .430 OBP / .609 SLG - 41 HR, 117 RBI, 97 BB, 65 K

Now, here's what Chris Carpenter held the opposition to, adjusted to 700 PA:

.231 AVG / .271 OBP / .351 SLG - 13 HR, 56 RBI, 37 BB, 156 K

If a manager ever put out a guy like that for 700 plate appearances like that, he'd be fired. Yet, Chris Carpenter did that to the National League as a whole last year - turned them all into squirming Corey Pattersons. And Chris Carpenter wasn't nearly as good in the rate-stat department as Roger Clemens, for example, who would have done this in 700 PA:

.198 AVG / .261 OBP /.284 SLG - 9 HR, 37 RBI, 52 BB, 154 K

Those are sub-Guzman statistics! Roger Clemens turned the National League into hitters worse than Cristian Guzman. And you (the pejorative "you") are trying to tell me that Roger Clemens (who face 838 batters this season) does not have the impact on his team that a position player does?

I'm not advocating that starting pitchers should always or frequently win the MVP award. In fact, I think everyone would be better off if the MVP was always for hitters and the Cy Young stayed as a pitching award. But do not tell me that a starting pitcher is not as valuable to his team as a position player "because he only pitches every five days."

It's a Blog-o-versary!

One year ago today, this blog was born of skepticism about the prospect of major league baseball in Washington, D.C. If all you looked at was that post ("Why We're Here (Hopefully)") and the current state of affairs explained here, here and here, you might conclude that the skepticism remains justified.

In taking that approach, however, you would a miss a year's worth of Linda Cropp, Jim Bowden, DC City Council, Vinny Castilla, Cristian Guzman, no owner named, the Home Opener, ERV Scoring (well, 3/4 of year's worth of that), the mud ball, Gary Bennett!, Danny Kolb!, 20-6, 10 in a row, Bang! Zoom!, John Patterson, Gary Majewski, pine tar, Chief!, Rick Short, Ryan Church in May!, that awful lineup against the Dodgers, Jeffrey Hammonds' game-winner, Brian Schneider picking off a Cub at third base, winning with Wil Cordero in the lineup, 50-31!, first place!, one-run domination (or SAVE IT, PYTHAGORAS!), 150 pitches!, Jamey Carroll's hustle, oh those bunts!, botched hit and runs, beating Pedro!, still no owner, walk off balks, Welcome Preston Wilson!, where's Tomo Ohka?, Baerga "running" around third, ¡Livan! will "shut it down", 14 innings against the Astros, the Braves :(, July, p3wnd by Pythagoras, Brandon Watson's dinger!, Patterson's 2-hitter against the Dodgers (there's still hope -- we swept the Rockies!), the effin' Reds, for crying out loud, still no owner, combacks agains the Phils and Braves, Chief gets tired, 3-man rotation, Frank hates pitchers, still no owner, Where's Sunny Kim?, Dutch Zimmerman!, the Saturday Night Massacre in San Diego, Barry Bonds p3wns RFK, still no owner, Phils and Mets sweep, sweep up the memories, 31-50, 81-81, last place, Jim Bowden, DC City Council, still no owner ...

to be continued (hopefully).

Friday, November 11, 2005

More Fun with Bill James

The Handbook also includes player projections for 2006. How good are these projections? Here's Bill James: "We would tell you how we did last year, except that frankly we have no idea. ... We're not claiming to be able to foresee the future. Next year some guys who are 34 years old will drive their batting averages off a cliff, and others will carry on as if they were 24. We have no way of knowing which is which." Note that the projections purport to take account of park effects.

Nevertheless, here are the projections for the Nats likely starters and others (such as potential free agent signings), including the projection of likelihood of injury:

Pos..Name...........Avg/HR/RBI...OBP/SLG/OPS...Inj
1B...N._Johnson.....276/14/66....397/424/821...med
2B...J._Vidro.......295/11/55....365/427/792...high
SS...C._Guzman......255/4/34.....296/340/636...med
3B...R._Zimmerman...315/16/68....352/490/842...low
OF...J._Guillen.....281/20/79....335/439/774...high
OF...B._Wilkerson...256/16/59....371/409/781...med
OF...P._Wilson......275/26/95....342/491/833...high
C....B._Schneider...257/10/49....324/385/709...med

OF...R._Church......265/9/42.....323/398/722...med

OF...J._Pierre......302/2/44.....355/371/726...low
OF...J._Encarnacion.265/16/69....323/430/752...low

They also project for pitchers, but "make no claims whatsoever for accuracy" and Bill James is not involved in these projections "because he doesn't believe it can be done." But anyway, here are projections for relevant Nats starters and names being mentioned in free agency:

Name..........W/L....ERA...IP...H/9..HR/9.BB/9.K/9..Inj
L..Hernandez..12-15..4.12..245..9.3..1.0..3.1..6.0..med
J..Patterson..12-13..3.92..220..8.6..1.0..3.4..7.7..med
E..Loaiza.....11-15..4.26..236..9.8..1.0..2.5..6.4..high
T..Armas......6-8....4.37..120..8.3..1.2..4.5..6.6..high
B..Lawrence...9-11...4.08..181..9.5..0.9..2.5..5.4..med

J..Johnson....11-14..4.67..219..9.9..1.1..3.1..5.3..high
K..Milwood....14-9...3.60..210..8.6..0.9..2.7..7.2..high
M..Morris.....13-9...3.82..201..8.7..1.0..2.3..6.3..high
P..Byrd.......11-11..3.98..201..9.4..1.3..1.9..5.0..high
K..Rogers.....10-11..4.44..191..10.0.0.9..2.8..4.9..med







A Trip Through the Leaderboards

Yesterday I received my copy of The Bill James Handbook 2006. One of my favorite sections of the book is the Leaderboards because they include a lot of oddball stat categories, like BPS on OutZ (Batting Average plus Slugging Percentage on pitches outside the strike zone -- an Ichiro favorite) and Shortest Average Home Run.

Here are some Nats-related appearances that I found interesting:

  • Nick Johnson (9th) and Brad Wilkerson (4th) were in the top ten on Pitches per Plate Appearance.

  • Preston Wilson was 7th in Highest GB/FB ratio, which seems odd for a guy hitting fifth. Brad Wilkerson was 4th in Lowest GB/FB ratio, which seems odd for a guy hitting first.

  • Nick Johnson was 5th on the Best BPS on OutZ. Vinny Castilla (3rd), Brad Wilkerson (7th) and Preston Wilson (9th) all made the Worst BPS on OutZ. So it wasn't our imagination.

  • Ryan Church was fourth in batting average with bases loaded, his only appearance on the leaderboards.

  • Which Nats player was highest on the OPS by Position leaderboards? No suprise, it was Livan, fifth on the pitchers list.

  • There is a Longest Home Run board, but I think it is misleading, because Bonds HR in RFK isn't on it, and I'd heard the Nats never prepared a distance chart for RFK, so they weren't measured. Brad Schneider was 9th on the Shortest Average Home Run list (371 feet).

  • Jamey Carroll makes only two appearances, fifth in Sacrifice Hits and third in lowest GIDP percentage. Don't get me started on the whole bunting thing.

  • Livan has the top three slots for Most Pitches per Game (150, 145, 136)

  • John Patterson was second in Stolen Bases Allowed, but tied for first in Caught Stealing Off.

  • New guy Brian Lawrence was third in Pitches per Batter (3.45). I think this is good, given that Tim Hudson, John Smoltz, and Mark Mulder are on this list.

  • Esteban Loaiza was first in Percentage of Pitches in Strike Zone (or the "How to Keep Frank Off Your Back" list). I assume this is good too, given that Pedro Martinez, Dontrelle Willis and Roy Oswalt are on this list. So is Tomo Ohka, oddly enough.

  • Gary Majewski lead the league in Opp BPS vs Fastballs (Opponents Batting Average plus Slugging on fastballs). Patterson was third in the same stat versus curveballs.

  • Luis Ayala was second in Viciousness Index, or HBP/BB. Todd Coffey of Cincinnati was the most vicious.

  • Frank Robinson lead NL managers in ordering Sacrifice Bunt attemps with 115, just one ahead of Clint Hurdle of the Rockies (?). He also lead the league in ordering intentional walks with 77.

  • Finally, this is not Nats-related, but I found it interesting. Of the hundreds of thousands of pitches thrown in the 2005 NL season, only 46 were over 100 MPH. Billy Wagner (18) and A.J. Burnett (17) had 35 of those to lead. The AL had 87 pitches over 100 MPH, with Daniel Cabrera of the Orioles throwing 37 of them.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Taking Up A Collection

Barry Svrluga gives Nats fans some hope this morning by reporting that Jim Bowden is meeting with the Red Sox about their open general manager's position. Apparently, the Red Sox will be interviewing four candidates, of which Jimmy B. is one.

Let's hope that Jimmy B. dazzled the Red Sox ownership group with his recent San Diego heist. Good grief, the San Diego job might have fulfilled dual purposes: the Red Sox may have eliminated Kevin Towers from their list of candidates and started to believe that there may be something to this Bowden character.

So I was thinking...what could we as Nats fans do to make Bowden more attractive to the Red Sox? Agree to take on part of his salary! I mean, what if we paid $437 or $638 of his salary? Wouldn't that help? Wouldn't the Red Sox be crazy to turn that down?

I'm starting off the donations myself. I will donate one unused ticket to Game 5 of the 2005 World Series to the cause. Estimated eBay value: $40 or so.

Who else is up? El Gran Naranja? DM? Dexy's? Ball-Wonk, I know you can afford it, with that fancy web site and all. Dig deep, it's a worthy cause.

Monday, November 07, 2005

More on GM Stats

El Gran Color Naranja of OMG sounds a note of concern about misclassification of transactions when WS are assigned. He points out that a negative WS deal might be a positive for the team because it makes sense for the team in those circumstances. For example, if Castilla earns 15 WS for the Padres next year while Brian Lawrence is berated by Frank Robinson into a measley 4 WS, it would go as a -11 for Bowden. But what if Dutch Zimmerman has a break out year and earns 23 WS, his path to glory no longer blocked by Vinny? Overall, the deal is a good one for the Nats then.

Two responses: In the system described above, some GM will get credit for every WS earned by a player. In this case Bowden would get the credit for Dutch's 23 because he drafted and signed him, so Bowden's bottom line would be a net positive for him. But he should get dinged a bit for not getting "value" for Castilla.

But what if some prior GM had signed Zimmerman, but Bowden made the move that got him more playing time? I think the way to answer this is to split the credit some way, probably diminishing the share of the prior GM over time (this would go for bad deals too -- Bodes trading away BJ Ryan and Paul Konerko from the Reds in 1999 should hurt him less and less as the years go by, and the credit go to their current GMs). I don't know exactly how you'd do this, but some fixed percentage based on years probably is not too hard to administer.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

General Manager Statistics

The Theo Epstein brouhaha has prompted me to think more about general managers, their importance, and, mostly, how to measure their impact. I was surprised to discover that Won-Loss records for general managers are not readily available on the Internet. I started to build my own database of such records, but then thought, we can do more than just Won/Loss records -- there are good databases of transactions available at Retrosheet and Baseball Reference, and we could assign a GM (or 2 in the case of trades) to each transaction. Then, using Bill James's Win Shares , we could assign a value of Win Shares Gained or Lost for each transaction, based on how many win shares the player earned for the signing team, subtracting the Win Shares that a player the GM gave up earned for another team. Ideally, we could have an entry for each GM that would show how many win shares he gained/lost in free agency, in trades, in the June draft, in waivers, etc. A GM stats year could run from October 1 to September 30.

I ran the numbers for Jim Bowden's past year. Here are the Win Shares for each of his transactions (I've omitted most of those that had zero Win Share impact):

Signed Vinny Castilla (+12 WS)
Signed Cristian Guzman (+3 WS)
Traded for Jose Guillen (+18 WS) by seding Juan Rivera (-9 WS) and Maicer Izturis (-6 WS)
Released Chad Bentz (+2 WS -- He actually had -2 WS for the Marlins, so getting rid of him was a good thing)
Drafted Tony Blanco under Rule 5 (1 WS)
Signed Wil Cordero (-2 WS)
Signed Rick Short (2 WS)
Signed Esteban Loaiza (11 WS)
Traded for Marlon Byrd (7 WS) by sending Endy Chavez (0 WS)
Released Claudio Vargas (-6 WS)
Traded for Junior Spivey (3 WS) by sending Tomo Ohka (-4 WS)
Claimed Ryan Drese (0 WS)
Signed Mike Stanton (2 WS)
Traded for Preston Wilson (10 WS) by sending Zach Day (0 WS) and JJ Davis (0 WS)
Lost Sunny Kim to waivers (-4 WS)
Trade for Deivi Cruz (1 WS) by sending minor leaguer
Drafted Ryan Zimmerman (3 WS)

Bottom Line: Bowden's moves earned a net positive 44 Win Shares this year. Each WS is 1/3 of a win, so his moves were worth about 15 wins. Plus, the book isn't closed on Bowden's moves yet -- he should also get credit for whatever Ryan Zimmerman (and other players he acquired) do this year and beyond for the Nats.

For comparison purposes, I ran the numbers for Theo Epstein's 2004 transactions, and he came out with 84 Win Shares, but that's a bit unfair, since I included the 2005 stats for the players involved (I think for just 2004 he would have gotten something like 75 WS).

Anyway, in poking around the various databases, I've determined that it would not be too hard to build WS into existing transaction databases and add GM information to them so that you could generate these stats for history. The one big problem is that a historical database of Win Share information is not readily available. I'm suprised that someone hasn't done this already.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jimmy B! (Castilla Gets Traded for a Real Live Pitcher!)

I almost can't believe it, but ESPN is reporting that the Washington Nationals have trade Vinny Castilla, of the .723 OPS Castillas, to San Diego for right hander Brian Lawrence and - get this - cash.

Lawrence pitched 196 2/3 innings last year with a 4.83 ERA in spacious Petco Park. That pencils out to an ugly ERA+ of 80. However, there is plenty of hope for Lawrence. He's been a league-average to better-than-league-average pitcher the four years prior to 2005. He's a real innings-eater, racking up an average of about 203 innings over the last four years. He walks fewer than 3 batters per 9 innings pitched, and he actually decreased his home run rate in 2005, even while his ERA went up.

It should be noted further that Lawrence had the misfortune of starting 60% of his games on the road in 2005 (Oddly enough, he was the loser in a 1-0 game at Coors Field last year, the first of its kind at Coors). Assuming he starts 70% of his games in pitcher's parks next year, he should improve from pitching in the NL East.

No, Brian Lawrence is not the answer to the Nats' pitching problems. He's not a fly-ball pitcher, having racked up 1.4 or better ground-ball to fly-ball ratios in his career. However, he is a pitcher who can throw 200 major league innings from the 5th spot in the rotation while money is spent to fill the 3 and 4 holes.

More importantly, however, Lawrence represents the fact that Jim Bowden has accurately surmised that the future of the Nats at third base is Ryan Zimmerman, and there won't be any waste of at bats on Castilla next year. The fact that Bowden was able to get a real, live player for Castilla - who otherwise has no value - is something of a coup.

Now Jimmy B. can turn his attention to the position about 60 feet to the left of third base.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

He's Never Faced a Lefty, So He Can't Hit Lefties

Get to know the Malek ownership group in this story in the Post today. I found this bit about Jeffrey Zients, the 38-year-old who would run the team if they are chosen, interesting:

Baseball officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified so as to avoid the appearance of seeking to influence the sale, have said they are impressed with Zients's energy and intellect, although they are concerned he has no experience running a baseball team.

Surveying the world of those who have had "experience running a baseball team" does not give one comfort that such a trait is a positive. See Smulyan, Jeff. And go read Lords of the Realm if you think that MLB doesn't need some new "energy and intellect" to help it avoid the mistakes of the past.