Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

Two graphs in two days? I must be on a roll. Actually, I meant to post this a few days ago but never got around to it. Last week at Baseball Daily Digest, I attempted to quantify the throwing arm of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina by comparing their opponents’ base-stealing aggressiveness and success to the rest of Major League Baseball. The results were staggering — Molina is one hell of a catcher, as the charts and tables in the article illustrate.

So I decided to do the same for Carlos Ruiz, who is regarded as a good pitch-blocker and a great game-caller. You don’t hear much about his arm and there’s a reason for that: it’s average. Only in 2007 did he nab runners significantly above the National League average, 31% to 25%. Since 2008, he has been a few percentage points below average.

The following chart depicts a scatterplot with data going back to 2005. On the X-axis (horizontal), each teams’ opponents’ stolen base attempts — a.k.a. aggressiveness — is charted. Markers towards the left depict passivity. On the Y-axis (vertical), each teams’ opponents’ stolen base success is charted. Markers towards the bottom depict base running failure. So the further southwest the markers are, the better for the catchers.

Everything has been normalized into a z-score, which tells you how many standard deviations from the mean a particular data point lies. For instance, last year, opponents attempted to steal 132 times against the Phillies’ catchers. The average stolen base attempts against in the National League in 2009 was 128. By subtracting the league average from the Phillies’ number, and then dividing that difference by the standard deviation (25), we come up with our z-score of 0.16. That simply tells us that opposing teams ran against Ruiz and the Phillies at about an average rate.

Year Team SB CS SBA SB% SBA Z SB% Z
2007 PHI 84 39 123 68% -0.26 -0.89
2008 PHI 109 34 143 76% 0.47 0.77
2009 PHI 95 37 132 72% 0.16 0.23
2010 PHI 34 10 44 77% -0.15 0.67

Numbers are accurate as of a day or two prior to the publishing of the Molina article on June 7.

Obviously, the methodology is not perfect as I use team totals instead of individual totals. This is simply because I lack database skills and it is too time-consuming to piece together data on all catchers over the last five or so years. Overall, however, this more than does the job at putting a catcher’s ability to control the running game into perspective.

Things Ruiz is good at doing: blocking pitches in the dirt, calling games.

Things Ruiz is average at doing: hitting, controlling the running game.

Things Ruiz is bad at doing: resisting ice cream.

LOL: Lots of Links

I haven’t linked to my work elsewhere in a while, so I’d like to get that out of the way and direct you to the outstanding work of others as well. Additionally, you may notice a new ad on the right-hand sidebar from Google. If you have a few seconds, click on the links. It doesn’t take much effort and it will help pay for the costs of maintaining this website. Thanks!

Baseball Prospectus fantasy starting pitcher advice:

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The Phillies play the Braves early today — the game starts at 1:05 PM EST. Joe Blanton vs. Tommy Hanson.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

(Tip of the hat to Steve Sommer of FanGraphs as well as Jeff Zimmerman and Sky Kalkman.)

This graph will display Charlie Manuel’s bullpen usage by Leverage Index, a stat found at FanGraphs. I have shrunk it down to fit on this page, but you can click it to view a much larger version to enhance readability.

Ryan Madson, the Phillies’ closer while Brad Lidge has been out, is marked by the large red circles. While he has been given the Phillies’ most heralded job in the bullpen, he typically has not been pitching in the most important spots in a game.

(Note: Madson pitched on April 24 in Arizona, but it is not marked on the graph because the LI was so high — 3.74 to be exact.)

Jose Contreras, meanwhile, has come in with an LI above 1 (neutral) in four of his seven appearances. Danys Baez has also pitched in LI > 1 situations in four out of his seven appearances.

Manuel has kept his younger hurlers out of crucial situations when possible. Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon have combined for only three appearances in LI > 1 situations. J.C. Romero, recently healed from off-season surgery, has not been called upon to get any important outs yet. Not long after joining the Phillies after being cut by the New York Mets, Nelson Figueroa was thrown into high-pressure situations in his first two appearances out of the bullpen.

Elsewhere, you can catch the pitching-half of my installment of Smoke and Mirrors at Baseball Daily Digest.

BDD: Zero Tolerance for Vicente Padilla

At Baseball Daily Digest, I detail Vicente Padilla’s history of intentionally throwing at opposing hitters and call for Major League Baseball to step in and stop him.

In 2006, he led the American League in hit batters with 17. He hit two batters in five different outings, including one against the L.A. Angels that incited a benches-clearing brawl. In ‘07, he finished with the ninth-highest hit batters total with nine. In one start against the Oakland Athletics on September 16, he intentionally threw at Nick Swisher — the #2 hitter — in the bottom of the first inning. Swisher charged the mound and both players were ejected.

[...]

To date, Padilla has hit 85 different players. He has hit 15 of them (18%) multiple times, including Mark Teixeira thrice. Padilla and Teixiera were teammates in Texas, but their history dates back further to Padilla’s time in Philadelphia.

BDD: Cliff Lee: A Love Story

At Baseball Daily Digest, I investigate the hype surrounding Cliff Lee following the trade that brought him to Seattle.

The inclinations of Schilling, Rollins, and scores of Phillies fans about Lee’s skill is built on a solid foundation, even if they do tend to exaggerate. However, the Phillies’ ability to retain Lee would have come at the cost of a weak Minor League system. Furthermore, even the Major League team in 2011 and beyond may have been weaker because GM Ruben Amaro may not have been able to sign then arbitration-eligible Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz to multi-year deals. And the organization may not have been able to sign Roy Halladay to an extension to keep him in Philadelphia until at least 2013.

Friday’s fantasy baseball article is up at Baseball Prospectus. There, you’ll find out three pitchers who I think are underrated and could help your team this year.

BDD: Phillies 2010 Preview

At Baseball Daily Digest, I preview the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies.

Will a revamped bench and bullpen help the Phillies become the first National League team to reach the World Series in three consecutive years since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals? That’s what is on the minds of Phillies fans going into 2010.

The preview went onto 8 pages in Microsoft Word and totals over 3,400 words. What I’m most proud of, though, is that I worked in the word “milquetoast” correctly. “Milquetoast” is such a great word.

If you missed it, my Phillies preview at The Hardball Times can be found here.

Once you’re done traversing the Phillies previews, you can check out my latest Fantasy Beats: Hot Spots installment at Baseball Prospectus.

Show Me the DVORP! (Phillies Style)

Eric Polsky at Baseball Daily Digest has done some great work with DVORP, which is VORP from Baseball Prospectus with a capital D in front of it. That D stands for “dollar” — Dollar Value Over Replacement Player. His latest work with DVORP can be found by clicking here, it’s a great read laced with some funny movie quotes. I thought I’d put a Phillies spin on it for my audience here.

It’s actually really easy to calculate this stuff. First, you take your players and you put them into an Excel spreadsheet along with their VORP, which is easy enough. I just copy and pasted the data from here, removing the pitchers from the hitters table. Then you multiply their VORP by the Major League minimum salary, $400,000. In another column, you punch in the players’ salaries which can be found here. Finally, you subtract their salary from their DVORP to find their actual value.

Now we can take a look at how much value last year’s group of Phillies brought to the table. Let’s begin with the starting eight.

Player Position VORP DVORP Salary Actual Value
Carlos Ruiz C 15.6 $6,240,000 $      475,000 $5,765,000
Ryan Howard 1B 47.7 $19,080,000 $  15,000,000 $4,080,000
Chase Utley 2B 61.7 $24,680,000 $  11,000,000 $13,680,000
Pedro Feliz 3B 3.5 $1,400,000 $   5,000,000 -$3,600,000
Jimmy Rollins SS 19.3 $7,720,000 $   7,500,000 $220,000
Raul Ibanez LF 38.4 $15,360,000 $   6,500,000 $8,860,000
Shane Victorino CF 37.7 $15,080,000 $   3,125,000 $11,955,000
Jayson Werth RF 42.8 $17,120,000 $   2,000,000 $15,120,000
Average 33.3 $ 13,335,000 $ 6,325,000 $ 7,010,000

The Phillies got more than twice as much value out of their starting eight position players as they paid for them. On average, the Phillies got $7 million of value, which is nearly 2 Wins Above Replacement in the free agent market. Unsurprisingly, Jayson Werth was the best value among position players, providing the Phillies over $15 million in value, nearly eight times what they paid him. His price tag will go up in 2010 to $7 million and definitely more after the season when he is eligible to become a free agent.

Moving on to the bench…

Player Position VORP DVORP Salary Actual Value
Andy Tracy BN 1B 1.7 $680,000 $      400,000 $280,000
Miguel Cairo BN 2B 0.5 $200,000 $      500,000 -$300,000
Greg Dobbs BN 3B -0.8 -$320,000 $   1,150,000 -$1,470,000
Chris Coste BN C 2.3 $920,000 $      460,000 $460,000
Paul Hoover BN C 1.8 $720,000 $      400,000 $320,000
Lou Marson BN C -0.1 -$40,000 $      400,000 -$440,000
Paul Bako BN C -1.7 -$680,000 $      725,000 -$1,405,000
Ben Francisco BN LF 3.4 $1,360,000 $      421,400 $938,600
John Mayberry BN LF -0.2 -$80,000 $      400,000 -$480,000
Matt Stairs BN RF 1.3 $520,000 $   1,625,000 -$1,105,000
Eric Bruntlett BN SS -9.3 -$3,720,000 $      800,000 -$4,520,000
Average -0.1 -$40,000 $661,945 -$701,945

*Note: Players are listed at the position at which they played the most defensively.

The Phillies bench last year was pretty bad and now you see why. The Phillies had four bench players cost them over $1 million, including Eric Bruntlett who cost them over $4.5 million. The good news is that the bench players were paid relatively little so their poor performances were barely felt. Fortunately, most of the offenders are gone, including Coste, Cairo, Marson, Stairs, Bako, and Bruntlett.

Player Position VORP DVORP Salary Actual Value
J.A. Happ SP 46.7 $18,680,000 $      405,000 $18,275,000
Joe Blanton SP 30.8 $12,320,000 $   5,475,000 $6,845,000
Cole Hamels SP 24.4 $9,760,000 $   4,350,000 $5,410,000
Cliff Lee* SP 14.1 $5,640,000 $      233,334 $5,406,666
Pedro Martinez SP 9.6 $3,840,000 $   1,000,000 $2,840,000
Steven Register SP 0.2 $80,000 $      401,000 -$321,000
Andrew Carpenter SP -3.5 -$1,400,000 $      400,000 -$1,800,000
Antonio Bastardo SP -4.1 -$1,640,000 $      400,000 -$2,040,000
Rodrigo Lopez SP -5.4 -$2,160,000 $      650,000 -$2,810,000
Jamie Moyer SP 8.7 $3,480,000 $   6,500,000 -$3,020,000
Brett Myers SP 5.7 $2,280,000 $  12,083,333 -$9,803,333
Average 11.6 $4,625,455 $2,899,788 $1,725,667

*Note: Cliff Lee’s salary is prorated for his time spent in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

The Phillies starting pitchers provided less than $2 million in value on average but it had more to do with heavy contracts than with actual poor performances. Only three pitchers compiled a negative VORP and they pitched a combined 59 and one-third innings, about 4% of the total innings pitched by members of the Phillies staff.

Brett Myers and Jamie Moyer were paid a combined $18.6 million last year, but combined for a DVORP of $5.76. That meant the Phillies got about $13 million less in value than they invested. On the other hand, J.A. Happ was the big winner for the Phillies, earning the Major League minimum but providing over $18 million in value. As you have no doubt heard by now, you should not expect Happ to repeat this performance no matter what the pinheads at Bleacher Report tell you.

Finally, let’s take a look at the bullpen.

Player Position VORP DVORP Salary Actual Value
Ryan Madson RP 17.7 $7,080,000 $   2,000,000 $5,080,000
Scott Eyre RP 12.1 $4,840,000 $   2,000,000 $2,840,000
Tyler Walker RP 9.3 $3,720,000 $      750,000 $2,970,000
Clay Condrey RP 8.3 $3,320,000 $      650,000 $2,670,000
Chan Ho Park RP 7.8 $3,120,000 $   2,500,000 $620,000
Kyle Kendrick RP 5.0 $2,000,000 $      475,000 $1,525,000
J.C. Romero RP 4.0 $1,600,000 $   4,250,000 -$2,650,000
Chad Durbin RP 3.9 $1,560,000 $   1,635,000 -$75,000
Sergio Escalona RP 1.2 $480,000 $      400,000 $80,000
Jack Taschner RP -0.3 -$120,000 $      835,000 -$955,000
Brad Lidge RP -15.6 -$6,240,000 $  11,500,000 -$17,740,000
Average 4.9 $1,941,818 $2,454,091 -$512,273

If you’re anything like me, your eyes darted right to that -$17,740,000 belonging to Brad Lidge. His nightmare of a 2009 season cost the Phillies nearly $18 million. Just for fun, I removed Lidge from the equation and the average actual value of the Phillies bullpen goes from negative $500,000 to positive $1.2 million, a net gain of $1.7 million. Excluding Lidge, the bullpen was actually slightly above-average.

Know any Ryan Madson skeptics? Show them this table. Madson has been the unsung hero of the bullpen over the past three seasons. He is a free agent after the 2011 season, which is when Lidge can become a free agent as well if the Phillies decide against his $12.5 million club option. Is Madson the closer of the future? I would not be surprised to see the Phillies aggressively try to retain Madson if he continues to keep up the outstanding work.

Additionally, the above table shows just how overrated relief pitchers can be. The top three highest-paid relievers last year (Lidge, Romero, Park) cost the Phillies a combined $20 million and provided -3.5 VORP. Ed Wade, take heed.

All told, the 2009 Phillies spent under $117 million but got $178.5 million in value, a most excellent figure.

Recommended Reading

Let’s head into the weekend in style. I’ll catch you up on my latest from around the Interwebs.

Elsewhere, I’m happy to announce that Crashburn Alley has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in The Phield. I am very grateful for all of the votes that have been cast in support of this blog; 408 of them were cast in the second round alone. The “odds” of Crashburn Alley winning it all are 12:1 but stranger things have happened.

I’ll post a link to the voting when it goes live on Saturday. Please continue to cast your votes!

Remember, you can follow Crashburn Alley on Twitter by clicking here.

BDD: Someone Could Use Nelson Figueroa

At Baseball Daily Digest, I wonder why Nelson Figueroa hasn’t been picked up on more Major League radars.

[...] somehow, Nelson Figueroa — who, granted, is not Cy Young — is having trouble staying in the big leagues. Figueroa has a career 4.54 ERA, including a 4.09 ERA last year with the New York Mets.

He’s an average pitcher, and average pitchers have value. A study by Jeff Sackmann at The Hardball Times over three years ago found that the average #3 starter has a 4.58 ERA. Nelson’s career ERA, again, is 4.54. The average #4’s and 5’s have ERA’s of 5.10 and 6.24 respectively.