May 2008

Don’t worry about Teixera.

     I have been hearing much about Mark Teixera as a notoriously “slow starter.”  And the numbers back this theory up.  So the Braves and others need not worry, he will begin hitting again.

 

     Before today’s game, in which he homered, Tex was barely above average offensively.  His OPS+ sat at 105, and that is well below his career tally of 129.  Being the weaker part of one of the best 3-4 combos in baseball can only emphasize his “struggles.”  Especially when the other half of that Dynamic Duo is batting .420 after the action that took place today.  Teixera’s OPS in the month of April sits at .787, not horrendous, but not very good for a player of his caliber.  Every other month, over the course of his career, he has an OPS of at least .876, which is nearly .100 points higher!  And at the end of the year he has been simply ridiculous in his production posting a .952 OPS in August, and an astounding .989 OPS in September.  For those of you who think that the games later in the year mean more (which they don’t), then Teixera is your guy.  Aside from the playoff games of course, which do mean more, but Teixera has never been that far into a season, which isn’t exactly his fault.  Blame the Texas Rangers’ front office for that. 

 

     But if the Braves let Teixera walk, which seems to be very likely, then there will be a heck of a hitter available (And a good defensive 1B too).  I would be hesitant to lock him up for seven years or something obnoxious like that.  But if a team could grab him for four years, then it would be a huge plus.  Because anything beyond that is suspect, and unknown.  Of course even the first four years are “unkown,” technically speaking.   

Statistical Observations 3/29

  •      That questionable (because I don’t truly understand its worth) stat called Win Shares, created by the greatest of stat-makers Bill James, is led by…Kevin Youkilis, still.  In the American League of course.  And in the NL the spot belongs to the red-hot Lance Berkman, with an incredible 15 Win Shares.  Does everyone outside of Houston realize that Berkman has 10 stolen bases and has been caught only once?  This to go along with his 1.212 OPS (OPS+ 214).  His .381 BA.  His .470 OBP.  His…you get the point.  He has been awesome this year, and has always been a great hitter.  But he already has more base thefts than he has ever had in a season.  And we are only a third of the way through the season.  It takes a truly great year sometimes to show everyone what you already are, a Great hitter!  

 

  •       Berkman also leads in the “Runs Created” category, not surprising since he has a significant lead in “Win Shares,” and of course plays first base.  And that would mean that he can only add so much from a defensive perspective.  In turn, resulting in most of his contribution coming from the plate.  The leader in the AL in “RC” is Josh Hamilton who has been a pleasant surprise.  Obviously the talent was there, but Hamilton was far from a sure thing to be hovering around the top of the leaderboard with all of his “personal demons.” 

 

  •      So it is truly incredible that Chipper Jones is still flirting with .400.  He has actually taken .400 out for a date and things are going pretty well.  .422 is where his average now stands.  I never rule anything out, but I was pretty confident, if I had to bet, that Jones would be under .400 by now.   Since the last time I mentioned it in the blog I mean.  I have heard one of the reasons why there has been such an increase in Chipper’s “Batting Average” and it could be due to the fact that he has said that he has learned to try and do “less” against good pitching.  Realizing that it is of course more difficult to hit good pitching well.  So apparently he has shortened his swing, and his mental approach to accomodate for who is on the mound.  Because odds are, he isn’t going to hit Brandon Webb, or Jake Peavy out of the yard, so why not try something more within reason?  I don’t think this is going to last, but then again I didn’t think it would have lasted this long either.  But I want him to do it, I want to see someone hit .400, it is exciting, or will be exciting, since I don’t actually know from experience.  And most of you would agree, I am sure.

 

  • ERA+ leaders in the AL as of today are:  Cliff “Dive into Greatness” Lee, Daisuke, Shaun “I’m not even sure what I am going to throw!” Marcum, Joe “my Dad Flip is on the brink of elimination” Saunders, and Zack Greinke.  Not a single one of these pitchers I would have picked to be in the top 5 in ERA+ at this point.  But they are all pitching very well, even if one of them is super-frustrating to watch.  The NL top five, minus the cheesey nicknames: Volquez, Zambrano, Lincecum, Dempster, Cook.   And yes, that is Aaron Cook of the Colorado Rockies. 

 

  • “The Gagne Watch”-  He’s hurt and he’s terrible.  That’s it. 

 

 

 

    

What I Believe…

     Here’s what I think:  Hitters really want the use of Instant Replay to come into the game of baseball.  So, to push the subject, they are aiming to hit home runs that barely make it over the wall, to increase the odds that a controversial call will take place.  Yes, hitters have that kind of bat control, folks.  They aren’t trying to simply put a good bat on the ball, or to drive it as far as humanly possible, they are trying to hit off the most unique spot, the most difficult spot for the umps to make the RIGHT call.  I am not making this stuff up…

 

     Another good article on Jeter.  Although Yankee fans may hate it.  But it is just another explanation about how Jeter is not perfect (A Hall of Famer, no doubt though), and his defense has never been anywhere close.  I stole the link from Rob Neyer, who stole it from JoPo.  Jeter Article.

The Drew Watch.

     A sabermetricians dream player, the casual fans overpayed nightmare, JD Drew is once again doing what he does best…get on base.  The reason for the intrigue for Drew, just to reiterate if one is reading for the first time, or maybe just to annoy my most loyal readers, is that the Sabermetrics crowd became infatuated with Drew.  Mostly because of the fact that all he does is get on base.  And what do they value so highly?  On Base Percentage.  I think it is safe to say that the ones who make up the sabermetric community feel Drew is a good player.  I doubt they think he is great, but good would be a fair estimate I would believe.  But the average fan, the ones who rely on what they see and of course a few statistics, mostly the ones they show during a broadcast (Avg, HR, RBI), seem to think Drew is closer to mediocrity.  I stand in between.

 

     Drew has never been a great average hitter.  He’s always hit for power, but it is mostly found in his slugging percentage, not his final tally of home runs each year.  He has never been one to drive in a bunch of runs either, driving in 100 only once, and that season he drove in EXACTLY 100.  He has never hit well in the “clutch.”  Whether it is because he tenses up, or some may even say he just doesn’t have the same desire to succeed with the game on the line, who knows.  But his average in “Late and Close” situations throughout his career is .249 down from .284 during all situations.  And his OPS in those situations is .820, down from .888 (not to drastic in that category).  Before last season, Drew never played well in the postseason either.  So he had that held against him basically until he hit that 1st inning Grand Slam against the Indians in Game 6.

 

     And of course there is that other statistic, the one that fans everywhere have loathed as long as JD Drew was and is playing for their team.  The number of times Drew has shown emotion.  Which isn’t zero, it is far from that.  But it may be closer to zero than any other player of his tenure.  And that just gets under the skin of most fans, and I understand why it could, but I don’t personally dwell on it much.  Because I value what he does best, what is most important in winning ball games, at least on the offensive side of the ball, and that is the great OBP he carries around every city he goes to.  After all, he does not make or break the Red Sox.  If he was batting clean-up and was the second best hitter on the team, then I would have some concerns.   

 

     But I am one that thinks that stats, over a long period of time, tell what a player brings to the table.  I do not believe that Cliff Lee is the best pitcher in baseball, I don’t believe that Chipper Jones will bat .400+ this season, and I certainly do not feel that Josh Beckett will finish the season with a sub-average ERA.  But I do think that Drew has been a better-than-average player throughout his career, when he is on the field of course.  You don’t just coast to an OPS+ of 128.  And you definitely help your team some when you have posted a .390 career OBP. 

 

     I was going to write this post earlier while I was at Panera, but I was blogged out after the two posts that I finished.  When I returned home, I clicked over to Sox and Pinstripes and discovered Jeff’s own article about Drew.  Not quite the same point, but basically describes how he feels about cheering on the same RF as I. 

 

     But part of the point of my blog, in addition to some of the stuff I went over, is this:  Drew currently has a .394 OBP.  He has an OPS+ of 121.  He has missed some time, but that is why I never wanted to sign him in the first place (that’s another story that one will have to read past blogs to understand).  Once again, while he has been on the field, he has produced.  And this may not keep up, no one can tell the future.  But whenever he plays, I am confident he will have success.  He always has, but the extent of that IS debatable.        

Yo Adrian!

     Remember the 2004 campaign when Adrian Beltre, at the age of 25, crushed 48 home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Then the following offseason the Seattle Mariners forked over a very large sum of $12 million per year for the “one-hit” wonder.  I recall thinking that it was a lot of money for a player that had ONE good year, one GREAT year, to be more accurate.  But I wasn’t sure that it was a BAD move, because after all, Beltre showed some greatness already.  Then after a down year, at least relative to what he had done the year before, and taking into account the large contract he signed, I grew skeptical of the signing.  And a lot of other analysts/experts/fans/ignorant fans/economists were on board.  And rightfully so.  $12 million a year for a player that hit below average (OPS+, 93), and adding in his glove was roughly around average?  That is just too much.

 

     But…although Beltre struggled some his first year in Seattle, and has never come close to duplicating his 2004 numbers.  He has been an above average player the past few seasons.  Let us look at his Win Share totals the past few years.  And we will stick strictly to third baseman.  The top three “Win Shares” seasons between 2005 and 2007 go to none other than ARod, the best 3B in the game, with 39, 37, and 25.  Let us eliminate the 37 and 39, for that is exceptional, a few of the best seasons of all time.  And comparing any third baseman’s single season over each of the past three full season to that number is just not fair.  But I will include AROD’s seasons.

 

     Anyway, there are 14 starting third baseman in the AL alone.  So, there should be about 42 “Win Shares” seasons amongst all of them (3 for each 3B).  This is again, between 2005-2007.  Adrian Beltre has two of the top 15 seasons in terms of Win Shares, with 19 and 18, respectively.  Also take into account that if one were to exclude Arod’s top two seasons of ridiculousness, then the highest “Win Shares” total would be Arod with 25.  So it looks much better if Beltre is not compared to the great outliers that ARod has put up.  And Beltre’s “less than stellar” 2005 actually falls in at 21st out of the 42 total seasons by the AL’s 3rd baseman. 

 

     Aside from Win Shares, here are Beltre’s offensive outputs in terms of OPS+.  93, 105, and 112.  This year his OPS+ sits at a nice 114.  But remember, Beltre has one of the best gloves at the position, and he has also played in 149 games, 156 games, and 156 again in each of his past three seasons.  In those same three seasons, Beltre finished fifth in John Dewan’s plus/minus system (defensive efficiency) behind Feliz, Inge, Rolen, and Crede.  All of whom have good gloves. 

 

     Adrian Beltre’s counting numbers have been way down though.  But some of that is opportunity, I believe.  I haven’t looked at the individual opportunities that he has come upon, but his team finished 7th in Runs scored last year, 7th in OBP (AL).  In 2006 the Mariners finished 13th in runs scored, and 13th in OBP.  And in 2005 the Mariners were 13th in runs scored, and 14th in OBP.  Funny how a team’s “runs scored” and OBP match up so well sometimes, huh?  I think it is safe to say that Beltre hasn’t had many opportunities to pad his RBI totals in the three seasons that he has spent in Seattle.  Part of the totals for the Mariners may lie in the fact that Safeco is a “pitchers park” but a larger part is that they simply don’t get on base enough.  And Beltre definitely doesn’t help the cause, as his highest OBP since he arrived in Seattle has been .328.  His strengths have been his slugging, and of course his “Gold” glove.  But if you look back at his career he has never hit for much in the average category, and has never drawn many walks either.  With the exception of 2004, where he batted .334 and drew 53 walks, 9 intentionally.  The Mariners should have noticed those deficiencies in his game, which I am not sure that they did. 

 

     But overall, Beltre has been a decent-above average 3B while he has been in Seattle.  He plays a lot, he hits for power, and he adds a very good glove.  And once he comes off the books, the Mariners should be able to feel comfortable with the production they received for the money they they paid.  Which I wasn’t sure they would have felt right after he had played out his first full season in Seattle.  

 

     And of course, do not forget the whispers…

 

 NOTE:  Sorry about the unoriginal title, but it was either that or simply “Adrian Beltre.”   

 

         

Instant Replay?

     Since the subject seems to be discussed throughly of late, with the two recent homers that were wrongfully called, I must address it myself.  Just implement instant replay already, as soon as possible!  But only, ONLY, for whether a ball is a home run, or not.  Fair, Foul, whatever.  As long as it is strictly used to view whether a batted ball is a four-bagger or not. 

 

     Tim Kurkjian was on “First and 10″ or “Sportscenter,” or something this morning, or last night.  Sometime, somewhere, he was on, discussing what he thought about the situation.  And his opinion was that he felt it should only be used to determine whether a home run is fair ball or a foul ball.  I agree and disagree, as I have already stated above.  Use it only on homers, THAT we agree upon.  But use it on all homers, not just the ones near the foul pole.  I have seen some at Fenway, wrongfully called, because it is so difficult to see from where the umps are standing.  Imagine trying to figure out in a split second whether or not a baseball is in play, or over a “line” as it appears from afar, all while standing and looking up at 37-feet of wall.  It is very hard to see that from where they are.  

 

     Why haven’t they already established instant replay in baseball?  Because it is do difficult for people to accept change?  This isn’t going to be like the NFL if they go on and do it.  Because it is a rare occasion when a home run is mis-called, it just happens to have occured two times in a very short period of time…to the same team.  It won’t happen every game.  Technology has advanced, take advantage of it baseball.  And don’t tell me that the cost will be to much for the league to handle, because it will not be.  This is a feature that will improve the game and will help get the most influential call, the home run, right.     

Andy Pettitte…

     Five strikeouts and one pickoff in the first two innings, against the only team that may be be experiencing more turmoil via the media than the Yankees.  I am not sure how well Pettitte will pitch this season, as I was a little skeptical going into the year (not that he would be bad, but that he might be less than what he has been).  But right now he is dominating in a game that was built around Johan pitching in the Bronx.  He IS a gamer. 

 

Note:  In 2005, a run scored 86% of the time, when there were runners at second and third with nobody out.  The play at the plate was very close, but with no one out, Damon should not have been sent.  Because to me it isn’t really whether he is safe or out, in a situation like this, it is how close the play is at the plate. 

 

Edit:  I spelled “Pettitte” wrong.

Top of the sixth…

     And Brandon Webb faced five hitters, and each hitter grounded out.  One error.  One infield hit.  And three outs.  He is good.

Statistical Observations.

 

  • Line Drive % is the percentage of balls in play that result in a line drive.  And apparently, according to The Hardball Times, a line drive ends up a hit roughly 75% of the time.  Anyway, at the top of the leaderboard in this particular category is…brace yourself…Matt Kemp (32.3%).  I bet that the Dodgers are glad that they did not include Kemp in any potential trade for a superstar (Santana, Cabrera).  Right now at least, as the trade cannot be properly evaluated for a few years, or more.  The next four in LD%, in order, are as follows:  Aaron Rowand, Victor Martinez, Ryan Church, and Miguel Tejada.  As for Rowand there were many detractors when the Giants inked him this offseason, and it is understandable why that is.  Nothing against Rowand, I am sure almost every fan loves the way he plays.  And I am pretty sure that every expert/analyst likes it too, whether they want to admit it or not.  It was just the near fact that the Giants were going to need a few years, or more, before they would have a legitimate shot of competing.  So it didn’t make much sense to sign Rowand to a deal that would have him declining while the team was rebuilding.  Not to mention, he was moving from a hitters park to a pitchers park, and he was coming off a year that was kind of uncharacteristic in relation to the rest of his career.  It made more sense for a contending team in need of a CF to try and lure the ruthless Rowand toward them.  But the Giants didn’t listen, they signed him, and he is paying dividends so far.  They also may wanted to have signed someone who could quickly become a fan favorite, and who was also a a likable guy, you know, to wipe the Bonds saga away, if just a little more.
  • After Rowand comes Victor Martinez.  I have so much respect, in baseball terms, for this guy.  He is a great hitter, simply put.  And he might very well be the most dangerous hitter the Indians have with the game on the line (as a manager said last year, in some form anyway).  With Hafner seemingly a glimpse of what he used to be, and Sizemore, as great as he is, an easier strikeout victim than Martinez. Victor does all of this from the catcher position too, which makes him even more impressive, and even more valuable.
  • Then comes Ryan Church.  How’s that Milledge trade working out for the Mets now?  Good, but its very, very early to evaluate.  So far Church has been playing out of his mind, and he will probably come down to earth a little bit.  He has never hit for this high an average at any time in his major league career.  But it may turn out better than the critics thought that it may.
  • And lastly, 42 year old Miguel Tejada.  He is hitting well so far.  I don’t know how long he will be THIS good, but he has a nice track record, so who knows.  I have always been impressed with Tejada so it isn’t of much surprise when he hits well. 

 

  • The newest Win Shares have arrived via The Hardball Times.  It was a pleasant surprise, that I came across while reading, what else, but the Hardball Times.  
  • Kevin Youkilis leads the AL in Win Shares.  I guess that is what a player gets when he continually turns on every fastball left up and in and hits it out of the park.  And the pitchers have been continually coming back with exactly what he has been killing.  That I don’t understand. 
  • In the NL the leaders are Nate Mclouth, who of course is surprising everyone.  And none other than Chase Utley.  Nothing Utley does is bad.  He plays good D at an up-the-middle position, and he is as much of an offensive force as most hitters in baseball are.  Utley had a very good shot at winning the MVP before the season started, and that has only increased with his dominating performance early in the year. 

 

(Note: Does anyone read my blog anmore?)      

Dice-E (Efficient)

     96 pitches and the exit for Daisuke?  Seven innings pitched well, not great, but well enough, and Matsuzaka gets taken out of the game.  I don’t necessarily disagree with it, but I would like to know exactly why Francona did it.  One reason could be that he was surprised Daisuke was semi-efficient, and was glad to take the seven innings and move on.  Once again, the Twins are very impatient, so I wouldn’t look too much into this start.  It was pretty much the same in the beginning, walks, more pitches, opportunities for the Twins.  The Twins actually hit the ball decent off Matsuzaka, they hit some balls hard, and they went the other way, almost with ease it seemed at one point.  But once Daisuke finally settled down, in the last few innings he was awesome.  His pitches appeared to be “crisp,” locating everything perfectly, including that fastball on the outside corner that he sometimes struggles with (fastball in general I mean).  Which leads me to believe that maybe he has to throw all the pitches beforehand, like he did in Japan, to maximize his potential.  I don’t know, but it shouldn’t take four or five innings to get your **** straight.  And what he showed us late in the game, is almost a tease.  If he becomes that pitcher, he will be a bonafide ace, but if he continues to pitch wildy, and run up his pitch count, then he may still have some success, but he simply will not be as good as he could be.  He is the most fascinating pitcher for me to watch personally, but he can also be the most frustrating. 

 

     The second reason Francona may have taken him out, might have been because he didn’t necessarily trust Daisuke in the following inning.  As well as Matsuzaka had pitched down the stretch in this game, he was only a few walks away from creating a problem for either himself, the bullpen, or most importantly, the team.  So Francona may simply have taken him out to bring in someone whom he trusted more than Matsuzaka. 

 

     The other reason they might have removed Dice-K, was simply to limit his pitches.  It kind of goes hand and hand with the first reason, take him out with seven good innings, while limiting his pitch count, hoping that he does not fatigue once again this season.  They have a reliable bullpen, with two very capable arms, and a few other decent options too.  And of course, to elaborate on the second reason, Okajima has not been nearly as effective when he has been brought in with men on base so far in this young season.  So having Okajima start the inning made some sense too. 

 

     Joe Mauer has such a great eye at the plate.  These are the things that one does not see in the statistics.  Sure, I can look at the “pitches per PA.”  But seeing it is something that has always marveled me.  I have gone on before about how I admire what Abreu and Drew are able to do with the strike zone.  And when I have seen Fukudome, he is able to do the same thing.  They have such a great eye of the strike zone, it’s just amazing to me, how they can be so calm, and so aware of it.  It does frustrate me when Drew watches a called third strike go by, if it is clearly a strike that is.  If it’s a questionable call, it hurts a little less, but if it’s a ball, then Drew is right.  I don’t buy that, “It’s too close to take” saying.  If it is a ball then the umpire screwed up.  It is like what Wade Boggs (I think) said when he was on BBTN (This isn’t an exact quote):  These players spend their entire lives learning the strike zone, they aren’t going to relearn the zone for each umpire that wants to express himself by calling balls and strikes with a different mentality. 

Every umpire should be on the same page, they aren’t, but they should be. 

 

     But anyway, Daisuke threw more strikes last night.  And hopefully he continues with more of the same, because there is a difference between a “pretty good” pitcher, and a “GREAT” pitcher.

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