I have defended leaving Brendan Ryan at shortstop for a while, even when he was hitting below .200 for the majority of last year and partially into this year. But after almost 30 games and almost 100 AB’s I have officially given up on him. His defense is phenomenal and if he could hit .250 he would be a very valuable player to have. But this is the realization I am steadily having about Brendan Ryan: He cannot hit .250 in the MLB, or even .225. And expecting him to do so anymore is a waste.
What has finally made me lose my last straw was finally looking at his stats, in both the box score and online. We all know his triple slash line is awful and that he has struck out as many times as he has had an RBI, scored a run, walked AND stolen a base combined. I am not kidding, that’s 19 on each as of the morning of May 13. But those things just show how bad he is, and what I am more interested in is why he sucks. Or, to put it more succinctly, what changed from last year or two years ago that is suddenly causing him to suck.
And the really sad answer that has caused me to give up on him is that really not much. His K%’s have gone from 17.6 to 20.4 since 2011 and his BB% has shifted from 6.9 to 8.6, which should offset the uptick in K’s. His batted ball profile (Line drive %, fly ball % and ground ball %) is almost identical, with a small drop in line drives and small gain in fly balls. He is seeing the same percentage of pitches according to pitch F/X and even swinging at a similar percentage of pitches inside and outside the strike zone (All of these numbers can be found on Fangraphs). It is this information that has driven me give up on Ryan, quite simply he is not an MLB-level hitter anymore.
So this takes us to the actual productive part of this article (As much as I love being Captain Obvious, I think we all knew Brendan Ryan couldn’t hit). And that is what the Mariners can do about this situation because I really doubt that Wedge can justify starting a shortstop that hits less than his weight (This is both shortstops on the roster right now). There are a few options in AAA, namely Nick Franklin and Carlos Triunfel. Franklin is the new sexy middle infield prospect who has torn up AAA pitching in about 30 games. Triunfel is the prospect turned bust, turned somewhat interesting player who is still only 23. Franklin would be the better replacement for Ryan but there are a series of factors that could see Triunfel as the short-term replacement.
First of all, Robert Andino should be cut before Ryan is. Andino is cheaper and worse defensively than Ryan. Offensively they are pretty much a push; Andino is sporting a solid .159 average in 70 AB’s. But this comes with the issue that Andino is also the backup third baseman. So whoever is called up would have to play some third base when Kyle Seager or Dustin Ackley need a rest. This requirement favors Triunfel, not because Franklin can’t play third, but because Triunfel has the stronger arm. I would not be surprised to see Wedge cite that as a reason for choosing Triunfel over Franklin, he also cares little for plate discipline, which Triunfel lacks.
The second issue is one of experience. Triunfel has played with the Mariners before, albeit briefly in September last year. Franklin is also a prospect and the issue of service time comes up. The Mariners do not want to start his service clock early and lose a year of team control over Franklin. This becomes a non-issue once we get deeper into summer and Franklin can be called up without starting his service clock. Meaning Triunfel could be called up soon to replace Andino but then replaced by Franklin later in the year.
Nick Franklin should be called up to replace Robert Andino and share time with Brendan Ryan. This team cannot carry TWO shortstops who are hitting less than their bodyweight. One of Ryan or Andino should be cut to help improve the offense. Even if Franklin or Triunfel do play poorly, they are getting MLB experience and that will make them better, even if they struggle at first. Andino and Ryan are not getting better by playing everyday, they are making the team worse. And as much as I love the talking buffalo commercial, its time to let the next generation of players get experience, meaning Ryan or Andino have to go.
It is often said that a team with little power needs to go get it. As in, get more power. I have no source, but I think many, many people have said something similar in regards to professional wooden-bat baseball. I did a basic study regarding that claim, and it appears that the cliché is a dud. But I’ll just give you the results and let you decide for yourself.
Consider a high-OPB, low-slugging-percentage team like the 2012 Minnesota Twins. The Twinkies finished 5th in the AL in OBP, but 12th in SLG. Based on team data going back 40 seasons, if Minnesota improved by 10 OBP points as a team, then I would expect it to score approximately 26 more runs on the season. But say instead they work to improve their weakness by 10 SLG points. Then I would expect them to score just 16 additional runs.
Now consider a low-OBP, high-SLG team like maybe the Baltimore Orioles in 2012. 6th in SLG, but 11th in OBP, the Orioles could expect a 28-run increase from a 10-point bump in OBP. And like the Twins, the Orioles would only get a projected increase of 16 runs from the 10-point bump in slugging. There appears to be some marginal benefit to increasing the Orioles’ weakness, OBP, but nothing noticeable. In both cases, improving OBP seems to be the more savvy option.
It’s fair, however, to wonder if the 10-point leaps are appropriate inputs to the model. After all, it requires only about 7-to-10 OBP points to surpass three teams in the OBP standings, while it takes closer to 18 SLG points to make the same leap. I guess what it really comes down to is how much do OBP and SLG cost? Good thing I have some more data ready!
With help from Baseball-Reference, I gathered up all the free agents that signed between early November of 2011 and late March of 2012 in preparation for last season. I assessed how much their 2012 OBPs and SLGs* associated with their salaries, and here’s what I came up with. Players get paid for slugging. A player with a SLG 10 points greater than his buddy might net that player 400K additional dollars in yearly salary. A 10-point advantage in OBP, however, earns him just $300K extra.
Put another way, the top ten sluggers averaged $8.0M in salary while the top ten on-basers averaged just $6.4M. In a vacuum, 10 OBP points produces more runs than 10 SLG points, but the league still doesn’t seem to be paying out accordingly. If we go back to the original question, we can hypothesize that—based on salaries and stats from these free agents—it costs about as much for 10 OBP points as it does for 7.5 SLG points.
If we adjust our first model, we find that a 10-point increase in OBP far outweighs a 7.5-point increase in SLG. The difference is about 15 runs in favor of adding OBP to your team. That’s 1.5 wins for the same price!
In my mind, the data strongly supports the idea that OBP is still undervalued, and that the Mariners overpaid for the power they hope to get with Mike Morse.
*Even though players are being paid for their OBPs and SLGs from before 2012, their 2012 figures are what the teams actually got out of them. I controlled for each player’s age, position and ballpark to some degree. I had to eliminate players for whom Baseball-Reference had no salary data, and those that didn’t reach 100 PA. The final data set included 67 players.
We’ve obsessed ourselves with league-wide MVPs, Cy Youngs and Rookie of the Years for long enough now. Don’t worry, you won’t find any of those, or Silver Sluggers, Roberto Clemente awards or any of that crap here. I instead present you with the Mariner Awards of Irrelevance.
Let’s get things started off with the Bored Fans Relief Award.* This player made sure to keep the game moving while additionally providing action that a bored fan would enjoy (or enjoy yelling at). Our winner swung at 54.4% of all pitches and 44.2% of pitches outside the strike zone, leading the team in both categories. Not surprisingly he averaged just 3.62 pitches per plate appearance, good for second on the team. He also managed homeruns in a whopping 3.7% of his plate appearances en route to appeasing all fans tired of long, monotonous batter-pitcher matchups with a remedy of quick plate appearances full of swings, strikeouts and homeruns. His catching was always an adventure in and of itself, and without further ado, I present to you Miguel Olivo.
The Manly-Man Award* was a difficult one to choose, and so I really had to split it between two tough, manly men. Each took a team-leading five pitches off his body without so much as a grimace, and promptly responded every time with, “thank you, sir, may I have another.”** Each played one of the most physically demanding positions on the diamond—shortstop and catcher, respectively—while sporting the manliest and ruggedest of facial hair. I present to you, Brendan Ryan and John Jaso.
The offensive Most Well-Traveled Award goes to the guy that covered more ground than anyone. Thanks to a team-best 9.6% extra base hit percentage, our winner covered 219 total bases with his hits, and tacked on a team-leading 21 bases through thievery and deception. Playing center field put him over the top for this award, so let’s give it up for Michael Saunders.
The pitchers deserve some of this credit, too, of course. We begin with the MVP—Mean and Volatile Pitcher Award. This hardly gentle man led the team with 12 hit batsmen, and before you start pointing at garbage like innings pitched, those twelve poor souls represent four times the number that teammate, Jason Vargas, hit in 217 innings. His 13 wild pitches represented 41% of all Mariners starters’ wild pitches, and were more than twice the next highest count. Additionally, our winner led the Mariners in something called WAR—quite the surly, temperamental sort, to be sure. I thus present this award to Felix Hernandez.
The Best Friend Award goes to Lucas Luetge, who allowed just 8 of his 50 inherited baserunners to score (16%), leaving the ERAs of many teammates intact. Additionally, he pitched 17 of his 63 outing on zero days rest, the top percentage on the team. I mean, who didn’t like Lucas Leutge? On the flip side, the Worst Friend Award goes to Stephen Pryor for allowing 10 of 17 inherited baserunners to score (59%). Side note: he also drew the most glares from his starters.**
The last award—the Pitching Efficiency Award—goes not necessarily to the pitcher that most efficiently recorded outs, but rather the pitcher that most quickly recorded outs. We fans have other crap to do, right?! This pitcher threw nearly 15% of the entire team’s innings, or about one-seventh, and did so with a team-quickest 20.0 seconds between pitches. His 5-minute, 9-second innings were the shortest on the team, and for that, we are thankful for Jason Vargas.
*Players required at least 300 PA
**Source not found
Inspired by the recent controversy surrounding the play of former Mariner, Alex Rodriguez, I did some interesting (perhaps interesting to me, only) research on the matter. To catch anyone up, ESPN and other major media outlets love painting A-Rod as Derek Jeter’s evil step-brother. Dave Cameron recently highlighted the false narrative concerning A-rod’s postseason play. To sum it up, A-Rod’s average postseason performance has been on par with his average regular season performance, minus the effects of extra good playoff pitching. And A-Rod’s average regular season performance is hardly average, so his playoff performance flies in the face of the narrative’s claim that he’s an October choke artist.
Then this article came along, calling out Joe Girardi for being human, and thus prone to recency bias. To sum that one up, Girardi stayed with Raul Ibanez* in game three, instead of going with A-Rod or Nick Swisher, likely because Ibanez had hit a game-winning homerun off a lefty—Brian Matusz—just eight days before. Additionally, A-Rod and Swisher have been slumping. Now the question becomes, does a player gain some sort of confidence boost from recently good play? And on the flip side, is a player likely to continue slumping if that’s what he’s been doing recently? If Ibanez’s homer against Matusz was predictive of another miracle, and if A-Rod and Swisher’s slumps were predictive of more woes, then maybe the decision to stick with Ibanez in game three was justified. Spoiler alert: not a lot of justification coming.
It turns out that Ibanez hit just .197/.246/.246 on the season against lefties. Clayton Kershaw hit about that well, too (.207/.230/.224). In other words, Ibanez’s confidence boost from hitting dingers earlier in the week would have to be mammoth to make him a respectable hitter against Phil Coke the other night. Likewise, the probability that A-Rod continued slumping would need some statistical evidence.
There is more and more evidence developing suggesting that most professional players of any sport just don’t have predictive streaks. Players doing well are just as likely to fall back to their expectation as players slumping are to rise back up. But let’s take a look at A-Rod specifically. Remember, this is an article about A-Rod.
To the numbers!
So here’s what I did. I broke A-Rod’s career down into 10-game segments starting in 1996, and I measured his batting average, OBP and ISO in each segment. If A-Rod’s peaks and valleys lead to more of the same, then we’ll see what we call “autocorrelation” within the 10-game segments. Autocorrelation measures whether a player’s own history correlates well to his present. Positive autocorrelation could possibly show that A-Rod’s streaks—good and bad—are predictive. But here’s A-Rod’s autocorrelation chart for ISO (they all pretty much look the same–I’ll spare you the rest):
What this chart shows is the correlation between current A-Rod, and A-Rod 1, 2, 5, or 20 segments back in the past. We can probably just focus on the X-values between 1 and 5, which represent segments from 0 to 50 games in the past. Going much further back seems a little overkill. I’m not sure what happened 80 or 100 games ago is all that relevant to A-Rod’s current playoff slump.
The Y-axis measures the correlation—or predicative ability for the purposes of this study. Notice that the highest correlation going back 50 games was about 0.1, and the highest on the whole chart was only about 0.15. Neither of these are high correlations. The R-squared values would max out around 0.03, which shows virtually no predictive ability.
Since autocorrelation isn’t everybody’s thing, I looked at this from a different perspective. Right now we’re seeing A-Rod slumping. Is there evidence that specifically bad play leads to more bad play? I looked at the worst 10-game segments of A-Rods career for each of the three stats (average, OBP, ISO), and then I checked the 10-game sequence directly after those worst segments. If A-Rod is prone to long slumps, then he should continue slumping more often than not, since these are only 10-game segments. But here’s what happened:
In 36 of his 246 career ten-game segments, A-Rod performed badly in batting average, relative to the nearest segments. The following 36 segments showed an average Z-score of -0.1. In other words, he nearly rebounded back to his average average.
In 37 ten-game segments, A-Rod performed badly in OBP, relative to the nearest segments. The following 37 segments showed an average Z-score of +0.05. In other words, he rebounded to do slightly better than his average OBP.
In 33 ten-game segments, A-Rod performed badly in ISO relative to the nearest segments. The following 33 segments showed an average Z-score of +0.21. In other words, he may have performed even better than his own average ability in the power department after suffering a 10-game slump.
We don’t know Girardi’s up-close perspective of A-Rod this past week, but we do know that A-Rod has no history of allowing poor play to compound, and there is very little evidence to claim that he underperforms in October on average. The evidence does not support mainstream media’s narrative, nor Girardi’s lineup decisions, but what do I know? I’m just a stat geek!
*That makes two former Mariners in this article. Sodo Mojo stamp of approval.
With a look at the stats, you will see the Mariner’s disappointing .238 batting average and .275 BABIP. These are pretty discouraging numbers, but don’t mark this offense as a failure yet.
What the batting average doesn’t show is … [visit site to read more]
Tags: alex liddi, brendan ryan, Casper Wells, Chone Figgins, dustin ackley, featured, Ichiro, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, justin smoak, kyle seager, Mariners General, Michael Saunders, miguel olivo, Munenori Kawasaki, Popular, Stats
Everyone seems to have their own take on Ichiro, and this blog, and just about every other Mariner related site, has talked about him a lot. I hope you are not sick of Ichiro yet, because it’s my turn to give you my opinion on the … [visit site to read more]
Over in the Hub this week I will be posting some links regarding Sabermetric principles. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject matter, but I do dabble and I think that the data provided through Sabermetrics has only enhanced the game of … [visit site to read more]
Not too much going on right now. I’m pretty much loving all the pictures and video supplied by Jeff Evans and folks over at the Mariners communications department. There is a little bit here and there … [visit site to read more]
I started this as a reply (and posted my reply) to a blog post and then it took on a life of it’s on into it’s own post. I hope you take it objectively and understand I’m not trying to come up with some perfectly eloquent retort. Just trying to explain my perspective.
According to some people nerds are the people ruining sports. Specifically those people are responsible for end of all things beautiful and mysterious to a game we love.
I don’t even know where to start.
It makes such a large assumtion upon how I view the game and my experience, not to mention relationship, with this game. Sure, I know people and I’ve seen people that have leverage index memorized so that specific situations arise they are cringing at how the manager may decide how to proceed.
That’s how they choose to be. It’s not how I watch a game and even if I did have all that stuff in my head, how exactly does that affect how any of you out there watch a game. There are so many issues here I don’t know where to start.
Does this all mean because of the stats I’m not screaming at the top of my lungs in the bottom of the 9th in 1-2 count with the game winning run at second? Of course it doesn’t not.
The first thing that we need to realize is this. Fans are fans. We are going to argue. Whether you “believe” in Wins Above Replacement or you do not. There are always going to be arguments or if you will discussions. The statistics we use just give us a context in which to argue.
You think LA Dodger fans are going to just say that CC Sabathia is a better pitcher than Clayton Kershaw because of the 0.3 WAR he leads him by? No way, it’s not going to happen. And you know what I think Clayton Kershaw is quiet possibly the third best pitcher in baseball right now behind Halladay and Verlander. But that’s just me, it’s just my opinion.
I love his slider. I love his curve ball. I love that he’s basically the left handed version of Felix (God don’t strike me down).
more beyond the jump…
Let me start by saying: I don’t think it’ll happen. The odds are extremely stacked against him. But, why not, just for fun, take a peek at how stacked those odds are?
Ichiro has a steep hill to trudge up if he’s to reach 200 hits for the 11th consecutive season. He had three hits in last night’s win over Cleveland, including a lead-off homer. These are the sort of nights we’re used to seeing from Ichiro and taking for granted, not viewing as an anomaly.
Is it the start to a patented Ichiro hot streak? Can he turn it up and reach 200 still?
Tarvaris Jackson is a 6′-2″, 225 lbs. running/passing machine. He has a cannon for an arm, throws well on the run and is very good at eluding the pass rush. His accuracy has wavered in the past, but with some time and development could turn out to … [visit site to read more]
It’s easy for one person or another to point out things that are unusual that have taken place so far this season. But the things that would be said “unusual” are just again more brutal facts about how the Mariner offense just doesn’t produce. But while it’s fun to point out the lame OPS/OPS+ it’s unfair to say that this is the same offense that we saw flounder in 2010.
While it’s one thing to point out rate statistics and say “see we are just as bad as we were last year” it’s quiet another to watch the game and not hold that feeling of hopelessness. While the offense is by no means a positive thing for this organization it’s going in the right direction and that was apparent over the last week of games when we saw the patience of the hitters at the plate. The Mariners come in 7th (43.8%) as of today in total Swing%. That’s an improvement of 16 spots after ending last year at 23 overall (46.1%). So it’s fair to say they are showing patience at the plate.
That lack of Swing% has helped to improve the teams low walk percentage. Last year they placed 27th (7.7%) but as of today they sit at 13th overall (8.4%). Obviously with the pickups of Cust and the development of Smoak this is something that doesn’t completely surprise in improvements but what has surprised me is the development of patience in Ichiro who already has 4 walks and is tied for second on the team so far this year.
We can point out that this team isn’t producing and that’s absolutely true. But with the BABIP still below .300 and among the leaders for line drive percentage it’s not the same story as last year having a BABIP below .300 and among the bottom in LD%. The guys in the line-up are hitting the ball hard. They are taking pitches and earning walks. They aren’t swinging at bad pitches. These are all really good things and they all point towards an improvement in this offense over the course of the season.
We all know the Mariners were bad, but exactly how bad were they? If you read Geoff Baker’s blog on the Seattle Times, you’d be led to believe that this team was the worst team that was ever put together. While the offense turned out to be historically bad, the starting pitching was surprising good, at least for the first half of the year.
As we all know, the Mariners finished the year a pathetic 61-101. The also only scored 513 runs, which is the lowest total since the DH was added. Defensively they gave up 698 runs. Using the Pythagorean projection formula, the Mariner’s “should” have been 59-103. This suggests that M’s were even worse than their record (a scary thought indeed), and I expect you have seen this point being made on other sites throughout the offseason.
Before we move on, I need to address one issue. I know this is going to make those who love their sabermetrics cringe, but unfortunately the Pythagorean projection system (pythag) is seriously flawed. Teams that win with good pitching and average hitting always win more than their pythag suggests, while team’s who win with great hitting and average pitching always have less wins then their pythag predicts. So using a team’s pythag to assess if they were better or worse than their record isn’t a viable method.
This is because of the effect of blowouts. Since the Pythagorean projection system only takes into account runs scored and runs allowed over the entire season, losses by more than 3 runs can actually count as 2 losses for the team’s pythag. In the same manner, wins by more than 3 runs can actually count as 2 wins for a team’s pythag. I’ve never seen a team get 2 losses added to their record when only playing 1 game. Proponents of Pythagorean projections claim that by the end of the season it should all even out, but in practice it usually doesn’t a couple teams each season.
Lets use an example to illustrate this point, the 2009 Mariners. This is a team that won 85 games, but had a pythag of just 78 wins. A difference of 1-2 win between the pythag and the actual win total isn’t a big deal. Like all real data, there’s always a little variance. But here we have a difference of 7 wins, which is quite significant. This is because the 2009 Mariners suffered quite a few more blowout losses than they had blowout wins.
Those that swear by Pythagorean projections will say that this means that a team isn’t as good as their record because they’re getting dominated too often. While that might work in other sports, I just don’t buy that argument in Baseball. Roster construction plays too much of a roll here. This was a team with a below average offense, but had good pitching. A team that wins in this way will rarely rack up enough runs to win in blowout fashion, but that doesn’t make them a bad team. The Angel’s won a world series this way. (The Angels also won a lot more than their pythag predicted that year as well)
Conversely, teams that win with a ton of offense and average (or worse) pitching are always on the positive side of the ledger when it comes to their pythag. The Mariners of the 90’s are a great example, as are the Yankees in almost any year. Since this article is already way too long, I wont go into the specifics for these teams. You’ll simply have to take my word for it, or look it up on your own. Now, back to the 2010 Mariners:
If you account for these blowout losses by allowing them to only account for what would be the maximum so they only get credit for 1 loss or 1 win per game, essentially capping the run difference allowed per individual game, (golfers will recognize this from the way handicaps are calculated, capping the strokes per hole) the 2010 Mariners adjusted pythag comes out to be 64-98. While this record is still bad, it’s better than their actual record and suggests that the team wasn’t as bad as their record shows, though only slightly so.(For the record doing this for the 2009 Mariners leads to a pythag of 83-79, much closer to their actual record)
Another way to look at a team is to use their hitting lines, and their opponents hitting lines, and predict how many run “should” have scored. This tends to normalize for pitcher who scatters a lot of base runners over many innings, but doesn’t give up many runs (Miguel Bautista circa 2007) vs. pitchers who dominate mostly but always have 1 bad inning (Freddie Garcia, Doug Fister).
This projection says the M’s should have scored 546 runs, 33 more than they actually did. That should come as no surprise to anyone who watched them strand almost every base runner they had all season. On the pitching side they should have only given up 668 runs, which is 30 less than they actually did. These are some interesting numbers, and I’ll have to get into them in another post. The adjusted pythag using these numbers is a 67-95. Again this shows that they actually weren’t as bad as their record shows.
Baseball prospectus also adjusts these stats based on strength of schedule. Exactly how this is done is a topic for another post. Based on this adjustment, it turns that their pythag record should have been 69-93. This means that the M’s ran into more than their fair share of the opposing aces and didn’t get their share of #4 and #5 starters. (If you disagree with this don’t blame me, these aren’t my stats. I just found them interesting.)
So, what does all this mean? Well, for my money it says that the M’s weren’t quite as bad as we thought. Instead of 101 losses bad they were closer to 95 losses bad. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still awful, but perhaps not as awful as our raw emotions led us to believe as the season ended, and certainly not the 115-118 losses bad that Baker claimed they were.
I’m interested to hear what the rest of you have to say on this subject. Please post your responses in the comments thread below.
Felix Hernandez was a gift.
Not just a gift to Mariners fans, but to baseball fans in general. It cannot be understated just how much joy Felix’s pitching has brought the world of baseball over the last five-and-a-half years. The abundance of strikeouts. The diving sinkers. The vicious fastballs. The fist pumps. The sheer brilliance with which he performs his craft. The ability to make a casual fan turn on their television and watch a team hurtling toward 100 losses because they want to watch a master go to work, regardless of how fearsome the opposition is.
Anyone can write an ode to Felix. It’s not hard, and everyone in the baseball universe has been singing his praises as he attempts to win a Cy Young with only 13 wins. Anyone can reference the 232 strikeouts, 249 and 2/3 innings, 2.27 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 6 complete games, and a fastball worth a whopping 25.5 runs above average. You’d be hard-pressed to find a statistic that didn’t agree with Felix in 2010.
Words are only words. I can’t convey the level of gratitude I feel toward Felix by typing on a laptop. Trying to appreciate the mastery of an entire sport by a 23-year-old is difficult, and language won’t do the trick. Every Mariners fan owes Felix Hernandez a hug.
Felix’s season can be summarized by his second-to-last outing of the year. He struck out five batters in eight innings, racked up thirteen ground-balls, and allowed two hits and one run. He lost, 1-0. Felix earned the loss in games when he allowed three runs or less six times in 2010. In fact, the M’s scored a total of 14 runs in his 12 losses. That’s about 1.2 runs-per-game. The Mariners offense was so inept that, consequentially, the best pitcher in the American League was slapped with a loss 12 of the 34 times he took the hill. That offense – possibly the worst offense in the history of modern baseball – may have robbed Felix of a Cy Young award.
Seattle baseball fans didn’t have much to cheer for in 2010, but Felix Hernandez did everything he possibly could to make us happy. Thank you, Felix, and here’s to another four years of fantastic pitching.