Saturday, February 22, 2014

What the Orioles have with Nelson Cruz

The Orioles have agreed to a one year deal with Nelson Cruz for $8 million and another half a million in incentives. For a guy who has averaged 1.3 WAR for the past three years, the price is pretty much perfect and the length perfect as well as there is little or no risk. If Cruz passes his physical tomorrow, the Orioles have seemingly made a nice deal--though they do lose a draft pick. But what exactly do they get in Cruz?
At first glance, the Orioles get a guy with a career isolated power of .228, which gives their lineup more pop to go along with Chris Davis and Adam Jones. They also get a guy who has performed well in the post season if the Orioles can perhaps get there. Cruz has averaged 32 home runs per 162 games for his career. Those are positives for a good price.
They also get quite a few question marks. With the constant trouble Cruz has had with his legs over the past four seasons, his fielding stats have tumbled into the netherworld. He can spell Nick Markakis in right against some good left-handed pitchers, but otherwise, the Orioles should only use him as a DH.
The Orioles do have some question marks in left field. MLB Depth Charts has the Orioles with a platoon left field of Nolan Reimold and David Lough. The Orioles should hesitate to put Cruz in left as the position is not his natural position and there is more of a chance to hurt himself--something that has happened with far too much frequency in Cruz's career. If Cruz plays more than 40 games in the field, that would be too many.
Should the Orioles be a bit concerned about the home/road splits of Nelson Cruz? Perhaps. Cruz played his home games in Texas for all but his first cup of coffee for the Brewers in 2005. Texas is a great place to hit. 92 of Cruz's 157 homers were hit there.
In fact, his career home OPS is .912, or 178 points higher than his road OPS of .734. That is a pretty incredible difference. Fortunately, the Orioles play in a fairly friendly home park for batters.
Nelson Cruz has had fun hitting in Fenway Park, and has been fairly successful up in Toronto. But he has not hit well in Yankee Stadium III or at Tropicana Field. With 36 games to be played in those four locations, that is also a good news/bad news thing.
The AL East should take note that Nelson Cruz mashes fastballs and curves and struggles against most other pitches. Cruz is vulnerable to sliders and split fingered pitches. He also hits fly balls to most parts of the field but pulls most of his ground balls.
Nelson Cruz gives the Orioles a power bat, something that is becoming more rare in baseball these days. He should help the offense as long as he is not playing the field a great deal and giving back much of his offensive value. Other than the ouch of losing the draft pick, the length and the cost of the deal are ideal  As long as they hide his glove most of the time, Cruz should help the Orioles.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jose Iglesias and Andrelton Simmons - Whose BABIP was more out of whack?

Jose Iglesias, if he plays full time, will be part of a debate between he and Andrelton Simmons on which is the better fielder. Simmons is fresh off one of the best fielding seasons for a shortstop...ever. Iglesias has that kind of reputation, but other than a few other-worldly highlights from 2013, has yet to put a full season together. But today, the focus is not on their fielding, but on which of the shortstops had a more unrealistic batting average based on balls in play (BABIP).
Iglesias ended the season with a batting average of .303 and a BABIP of .356. Andrelton Simmons ended the season with a BABIP of .247 and a batting average of .248. Since a large part of the two free-swinging batters on-base percentage is based on batting average (they do not walk much), this is an important question moving forward on their potential offensive worth.
Simmons did hit 17 homers in 2013, which Iglesias will never do, so Simmons does have that advantage. But looking at just the on-base percentage equation, the two players could not have had a more different outcome.
Here is a look at some BABIP figures for both as compared to each other and to the league average as a whole for 2013:
Where hit - MLB - Simmons - Iglesias
  • Ground - .240 - .183 - .304
  • Flyball - .182 - .145 - .200
  • Line Dr - .674 - .642 - .708
  • Pulled  - .391 - .317 - .545
  • Up Mid. - .301 - .265 - .275
  • Opp Fld - .307 - .195 - .367
While it is not a proper equation because of the percentage hit of each, you can see that Simmons is under on every category to the tune of a total of -348 points! Iglesias is over on every category except up the middle and is over by a total of 304 points. Those are some pretty glaring anomalies.
Most of Jose Iglesias' success with batted balls happened in the first three months of the season with the Red Sox. Regression set in during the month of July. At the end of July (the 30th), he was traded to the Tigers. In August with that team, his BABIP was .364. In September, he had another correction down to .243.
Of Iglesias' 290 balls in play for 2013, 18 of them were bunts. He beat out eleven of them. That 61.1% success rate would up his BABIP by four points. That's not a big push, but it does help. After looking at Iglesias' spray charts, a large percentage of his ground balls went to the left side of the infield and he beat out his share of those too. Those kinds of things help.
But, his BABIP was still a bit of a fluke as there were plenty of bloops and dribblers in there as all the Twitter conversation in April and May would attest.
Andrelton Simmons bunted thirteen times and beat them out for singles on four occasions, a .307 average. While still good, that will not make much of a dent on his BABIP. Like Iglesias, Simmons pulls a lot of his ground balls. But by attesting to his .183 average when hitting them, he does not beat a lot of them out.
Judging from Simmons' spray chart, he might be quite easy to defense as he does hit almost all of his ground balls to the left side: Source: FanGraphs 
Let's face it, if Simmons and Iglesias can be huge positives on defense for their teams, then it matters much less how well they hit. But every run gained is a positive one for a team. Simmons, despite hitting a large amount of ground balls to the same place in the infield, was unlucky overall in 2013. He should get better results if he can at least attain a BABIP near league average (.300). Iglesias will have to prove that his batting success in 2013 was not the fluke that it appears to be.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The over/under of PECOTA's top 15 players

I love projections. I fully understand that they are simply computer-generated predictors based on past performance and current playing factors. I also fully understand that they are somewhat helpful to fantasy baseball players. But projections are not perfect and never have been.
I do not have a favorite projection system. I may like ZiPs a little more because I follow the guy on Twitter and he is personable. But they all have their place and some are more conservative than others.
PECOTA is Baseball Prospectus' proprietary system and it tends to be conservative. I found their top fifteen position player projections very interesting. As such, I wanted to spend some time with these fifteen players and give you an over/under on whether PECOTA was too conservative or not. Too conservative is an over vote. Not conservative enough is an under vote. I will give you the player, the projected triple slash line, WAR(P) and then a justification of over or under. Here we go.
15 - Evan Longoria - .261/.350/.480  4.3 WARP: This is very conservative, so over. I don't have too much of a problem with the triple slash line as they are near to what Longoria did last year. But I consider Longoria's season a year ago to be disappointing on the offensive side. I think he will be better. And his fielding puts him over six WAR easily.
14 - Joe Mauer - .315/.402/.456  4.4 WARP: These numbers are all under his career averages and he beat each of them last year. Playing first base will free him up physically and as I wrote a few days ago, I think that will lead to bigger offensive numbers and make up for his loss of positional value by moving to the dead zone of first base. Over.
13 - Matt Kemp - .282/.344/.486  4.5 WARP: PECOTA must be still smoking whatever Kemp was having back in 2011. Of all the systems I have looked at, this is the most optimistic version of Matt Kemp of all of them. Unless proven otherwise, the 2011 Matt Kemp is gone for good in a haze of shoulder troubles. Under.
10 - Prince Fielder - .285/.393/.518  4.7 WARP: All the systems are conservative on Fielder, which is odd considering that he is moving from one of the toughest stadiums on hitters to one of the best. PECOTA is more optimistic than all the others for the big first baseman but still only projects him to hit 33 homers. Based on an albeit small sample size, I think he will hit 20 homers at home and 13 on the road should be a piece of cake. All Fielder has to do is get back to where he was in 2012 to beat this projection. Over.
10 - Andrew McCutchen - .278/.358/.465  4.7 WARP: This is probably the easiest one of the bunch. McCutchen has beaten these numbers in each of the last two seasons. Barring injury (knocking wood), he should breeze by these numbers. My only concern is if the Pirates fall back to a non-contention team. Over.
10 - Buster Posey - .294/.367/.466  4.7 WARP: Projecting a catcher is always problematic because so much depends on dings and dents accumulated over the season. All you have to do is look at the wild swing of Posey's fWAR numbers over the last four seasons to see what I mean: 3.9, 1.7, 7.7 and 4.8. PECOTA pegs Posey right around his numbers for last year, which I considered a bit of a down year for him. If he bounces back at all to somewhat near what he did in 2012, he will blow past these numbers. But again, for a catcher, this is a crap shoot at best. Over.
7 - Robinson Cano - .293/.343/.490  4.9 WARP: PECOTA is really expecting Safeco Field and the lack of protection in the lineup to mess with Cano. But let's look at it this way: In forty games played at that field, Cano has a .837 OPS, which is four points higher than this projection. All Cano has to do to blow away this projection is to do better on the road. Cano has batted over .300 in six of his last seven seasons including the last five in a row. His OBP has been 35 to 40 points higher than this for the last two seasons. And he has been over .500 slugging for five straight seasons. Yeah, Safeco will dampen him a bit, but come on. Over.
7 - Adrian Gonzalez - .286/.366/.485  4.9 WARP: Perhaps I have to admit my bias here. I really can't stand Adrian Gonzalez. There is no rhyme or reason for my antipathy, but there is. Even so, this is overly optimistic. Gonzalez's fWAR figures the last two seasons were 3.3 and 2.8. That is hardly close to 4.9. PECOTA has him hitting 28 homers. Not a chance. Under. But I am biased.
7 - Giancarlo Stanton - .267/.345/.546  4.9 WARP: Every projection system expects Stanton to have a monster season. The average projection for him is 5 WAR and 35 homers or more PECOTA has him at 40 homers. There are two things that concern me. First, pitchers have stopped pitching to him, second he strikes out too much and lastly, he cannot stay on the field for 150 games. I see only a chance for one of those three things to change. Under.
6 - Mike Trout - .288/.354/.467   5.2 WARP: Are you kidding me? Over. Easily. The Angels are going to have a better year and that can only help Trout. Over. Over. Over.
5 - Troy Tulowitzki - .298/.369/.524   5.4 WARP: One of these years, Tulowitzki is going to play 150 games or more. And if he does, these numbers will look puny. He is the best overall shortstop in the game, who unfortunately, cannot seem to get a full season in. I am going out on a limb here and saying that this is the year. Over.
3 - Miguel Cabrera - .313/.392/.560  5.7 WARP: Duh. Over. He will miss Prince Fielder, but the guy has murdered these numbers for years now.
3 - Ryan Braun - .302/.364/.544  5.7 WARP: Would you really say Ryan Braun in the same breath as Miguel Cabrera? No, but he has put up these kinds of numbers regularly. But how will he react after last year's fiasco? What will it be like with all that pressure to show he is that good without the drugs? I think this is 50/50. But I'm going under.
2 - Joey Votto - .299/.400/.531  5.9 WARP: The final OPS number is similar to what Votto put up last year. His on-base percentage was much higher, but his slugging was lower. I really don't understand the knock on him that Reds fans have of the guy. He is a great hitter. All that said, last year seemed like a down year for him when he did put the bat on the ball, though his BABIP was right in range with his career average. I don't know. The guy seems like a lock to get at least 5.9 WARP, but I am not real sold on the lineup around him. Under.
1 - Albert Pujols - .296/.382/.548  6.9 WARP: Surprise! I bet you wouldn't guess this in a million years. Not only does PECOTA project Pujols as the top WARP guy in baseball, but by a win! Wow. Pujols hasn't had a WAR this high since 2010. He is older. He is not the guy anymore. The guy now is Cabrera. Pujols isn't even the best player on his team. That would be Mike Trout. But...what if his struggles the last three years were because of his legs? What if that was fixed now and he has his base back under him. The guy was the superstar of superstars. He was better than Cabrera during his peak. What if, for one magical season, we see the Albert Pujols of old with a monster year? It could happen. Will it? I would not bet real money on it. But it is in the realm of possibility. Just ask the computer. Well...ask PECOTA's computer as no other projection system has him close to these numbers.

All Presidents Team

In honor of our presidents, here is a repost of the all presidential All Star team:
Since it is President's Day here in the United States, a holiday that means that the government and the banks are closed, but most everyone else is still working, it might be fun to come up with an all President All Star Team. Come up with your own if you can think of those that were missed.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

BBA Linkfest - bring a deer generals

Welcome to another chapter of the BBA Linkfest. You may know that I am the current president of the general chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and one of the things I like to do is feature our chapter's work. We have some new members, which is great.
"General" means that our chapter members do not have a team focus nor feature a specific topic such as fantasy or others. Our chapter members write about everything, which is sometimes harder to gain a foothold for pageviews. But it is who we are. Well, almost all of us except that Carelli guy who writes about the Yankees for Yahoo Sports. Heh.  Here are the links:
I start from the middle alphabetically and work my way around:
Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. has a really entertaining rundown of the ten best closers in baseball. Hint: #1 just got a nice contract.
All kidding aside, Chris Carelli of Yahoo still dabbles at his The Baseball Stance site. This entry looks at the questions facing each of the 3o teams.
Justin had some birthday and anniversary celebrations this this past week (congrats!) but is frustrated by the wait of this year's MLB The Show over at this Baseblog site.
For one of our newer sites (welcome!), Off the Bench, Sean Morash looks at what the Reds might do with Homer Bailey.
On another of our newer sites, Payoff Pitch (welcome!), a very thorough examination of the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays is undertaken.
Kenneth Matinale of Radical Baseball has a terrific post as he struggles to place Derek Jeter in context with other post-WWII shortstops.
One of my favorite posts of the week is by David of and tells the story of a Spring Training no-hitter started by none other than Pedro Martinez.
When stopping over at High Heat Stats, the problem is not finding a post to choose. Rather, it is finding which gem among Smaug's prizes to pick over the others. Doug has a really neat post on something Alex Cobb did in a game.
At The Baseball Hot Corner, Timmy Kennedy tries to help the Toronto Blue Jays decide on Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
The terrific Justin Miller who writes for three different sites including his own, inside the mlb, has a nice entry on the best recent one-year deals. Any time Andy Pettitte is in there, I'm happy.
The always prolific MLB Reports has a great post by Chuck Booth on the San Francisco Giants and a look at the team's payroll and contracts going forward. Be sure to check out Sully's videos every day too.
Another of our newer sites, Cover Those Bases, looks like a really good one. Especially if this breakdown of the Phillies' rotation is any indication.
We have a second baseball site in Italy! How cool is that? It is especially cool for me since the better half of my genetic makeup is Italian. The site is called Quarta Base and in this post, the author introduces himself to the BBA.
Another of our new sites, Peppercelebrates the start of Spring Training. Welcome!
Eugene Tierney is not new to us, but he sure is nice to have around. In his 85% Sports post, he talks about Jason Heyward's new deal.
The always interesting Shawn Anderson of the Hall of Very Good has an interesting idea for the BBWAA. He also has a story on a two-star athlete you may know.
Mike Hllywa on Off Base Percentage (one of my favorite blog names) trolled Jose Canseco for a day.
My buddy over at Diamond Hoggers has a great new post on the fine art of baseball heckling and how sometimes it backfires.
Hans Weisse is another of our overseas writers at Dugout 24This post tells you what he has been up to lately.
Ben's Baseball Bias has a wonderful roundtable discussion of the New York Yankees. Loved it.
The always fun Michael Clair of Old Time Family Baseball had some last minute Valentine's Day cards for you.
For my post of the day choice, Paul Sullivan of Sully Baseballwrote a tribute to Jim Fregosi. I sure wish I could have met the guy. RIP.
The Sisco Kid of Baseball Sisco Kid has a tribute to Derek Jeter, who just announced that 2014 is his last season.
My great friend, Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt actually thinks that Jason Hammel can help the Cubs. Maybe I like the writer so much because he is even more of an optimist than me!
Our original Italian writer, Mario Salvini has a great Spring Training story on Earl Weaver on his Che Palle! site.
Dan Kirby, a self-professed draft junkie, gives his top 100 draft pick predictions on the ever-prolific Through the Fence Baseball site.
Bryan of Replacement Level Baseball Blog gives us a truly terrific post on the Hall of Fame standard and which current players are on their way. Epic post!
For Baseball Junkies is thinking along Bryan's line and lists the All-Decades Teams from the 1920s to the 2000s. That's a lot of work!
Theo of Hot Corner Harbor bids a fitting adieu to Lance Berkman and Michael Young.
And lastly and leastly, you can read my look at the conservative projections of Jose Fernandez here.
And remember, as you look out at the frozen tundra like that outside my window, it has to be spring somewhere...