Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Onion has completely run out of ideas...

A complete change of topics, The Onion is now officially out of new ideas.

Read this.

Now, read this (from 1988!)

It's a real shame that the website which brought us items like "Shirtless, Shoeless March on Washington for Equal Service Rights," which still cracks me up, is mining old Phil Hartman skits for new material.


Okay, I admit I find this pretty funny. But then again, I'm a numbers' crunching man, too.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Player Highlight: Ryan Howard

Continuing my series where I focus on the keys to the 2006 season, I turn my attention to one Ryan Howard.

In my prior post, I focused on David Bell. Bell was the worst regular in the lineup last season, and the reason I focused on his first was because although he has limited upside, a small improvement at that position would result in meaningful improvement to the Phills. Low lying fruit, you might say.

The opposite is true for Ryan Howard. His fruit is as high as one can conceive. His 2005 OBP was .356 and SLG was .567. Very very good. However, if you've got a subscription to BP, check out his 2006 projection. His 50% projection shows an improvement to .363 OBP and .582 SLG. Then, look at his 90% projection. Look again. And again. It takes a few times to believe your eyes. Ryan Howards' 90% projection is an amazing .429 OBP and .750 SLG!!!!

As a comparison, I examined other luminaries' projected 90% SLG. The only player I could find with a higher upside is the inhuman Barry Bonds. Ryan projects a better 90% SLG upside than Pujols, A-Rod, Derrick Lee, Manny Rameriz, David Ortiz, anyone but Bonds. His 90% HR number is 61. His 90% RBI Number is 153. His 90% Stolen Base number is 0. Well, he's not playing because of his speed, folks. In fact, if he even attempts a stolen base all year, Charlie Manuel should be immediately fired.

When I plugged Howard's numbers into the nifty run scoring projection program from Baseball Musings, using all other players' 2005 numbers, I got a projected increase in runs of almost .5 per game, which would translate into an extra 8 wins over the season!!!

Wow. That's all I can say. Wow!!!

I like this webpage...

In it, you plug in the players in your lineup to discover the optimal lineup card. Before you ask, according to this Baseball Musings program, the optimal lineup would be:

1) Abreu
2) Utley
3) Lieberthal (Yes, Mike Lieberthal)
4) Howard
5) Burrell
6) Rollins
7) Rowand
8) Pitcher
9) Bell

According to last years' stats, such a lineup would score 4.774 runs per game. In 2005, the Phils scored 807 runs, which comeS to 4.98 runs per game. So based on this optimal projection, the Phils could see some dropoff, mostly due to losing Lofton and Michaels, I suppose. Or maybe due to Pinch Hitters. The difference is about 33 runs for the season, which might translate to 3 games difference. Not an immaterial dropoff.

Some interesting items in the lineups. In every single optimal lineup (the program shows the top and bottom 20) Abreu was listed as the best choice for leadoff. Lieberthal was listed as high as second and as low as ninth. Bell was listed as the last hitter about 50% of the time. Howard was listed as the #4 hitter 100% of the time in the optimal lineups. Utley was far and away the top #2 hitter listed, followed by Burrell.

In the worst lineups, the pitcher was always listed as the #1 hitter. David Bell was the second worst choice. Number three? Jimmy Rollins! When you consider that every time the pitcher leads off the inning we're going Pitcher Rollins to lead off the inning, Having JRoll as the leadoff man might prove to be very costly to the Phils, according to this.

Please note that I did absolutely zero research into the methods this program uses to calculate the optimal lineup, and I know for a fact it does not consider left/right matchups when considering lineups. Also the difference between the absolute best lineup and the absolute worst is less than a run a game, and if you were to always bat the pitcher last, it's far less than that.

Play around with this and post your most interesting discoveries.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Good News!!!!! A Citizens' Blog is Back!!!

Probably the premier stathead Phillies Blog will be returning March 6.

This really distresses me...

One of my favorite baseball web sites ranked the Phils as having had the fifth worst offseason in baseball.

Then again, maybe that's about right. We lost one of the most valuable parts of the team, and added effectively nobody.

On the other hand, consider the fact that BP ranked the 2006 free agent crop as "The least accomplished, most overpaid in recent history." (Membership req'd. What? You aren't a member of BP? You really, really should look into it. It's like, $35.00 a year. Best baseball money you can possibly spend.) Maybe, just maybe, not giving mediocre free agents five year multi-million dollar contracts was a good idea.

Well, I can't say I'm happy about 2006 from an acquisition department. We'll see if it's part of an overall plan.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A quick post on park factors

What with the fences being moved out and all, I just wanted to point out that last year, the Phils played in a park which inflated runs by only (cumulatively) 3% in 2005, and 1% in 2004.

UPDATE: I just checked and realized those links don't work. Try going here and scrolling to the bottom to access the park data worksheets.

Also note that in 2005, the Phils NL East opponents played in neutral to extreme pitchers parks, with the Braves in a neutral park, Fla and Wash suppressing runs at a 4% rate, and the Mets at a 3% rate. Most park factors (ESPN) simply calculate park factors by dividing runs at home against runs on the road. This is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

The moving out of the fences might suppress runs a teeny, tiny bit in '06 (although I expect the additional doubles to left will mitigate this effect), but the park factor "experts" will still point to the fact that the Phils will (likely) score more runs at home than on the road. Of course, if you play half of your road games in pitchers parks, this is expected.

Just a little reminder as we head into the new season and all the yahoos on WIP start to bellyache about this subject, as you know they will.

To answer a great post by Tom G

Here's Tom's post. I originally wanted to post a response in his comments section, but this ran kind of long.

All this may true about underachieving. But (and since I'm such a contrarian you knew there would be a but) I think we really have to lighten up on ourselves and even on these Phils.

As human beings, we always look for patterns. It's what makes us who we are, and even defines us as either "statheads" or as "seamheads" (a great term, by the way). Statheads have our little techniques on measuring performance, with our regressive analysis and prediction of future performance. Seamheads have been weaned on newspaper writers and more recently talk show hosts (who generally have come from newspaper writers). These newspapermen are not statheads, but writers. As writers, they look for a story, a theme, a theme, and an interesting anecdote. When they look for patterns, these writers use terms such as “Clutch” “Choker” “Underachiever” and “Overachiever” to describe what he sees. In all of these terms, we see a story, or a theme, or a character point.

Thus, a writer will translate the action on the field as a human drama, and thus assign, perhaps, more to the outcome of a game than it warrants.

Maybe the best example I can think of which illustrates the absurdity of this is from a very early “Simpson’s” episode. In it, Mr. Burns organizes a Power Plant softball team made up of the out of shape workers (to illustrate, the star of the team was Homer). After a while, Mr. Burns decides to substitute the entire team with major league ringers such as Ken Griffy Jr., Daryl Strawberry, Roger Clemens, and the like. He then holds a mini-tryout for the new team. Naturally, the pros all make the team and the power plant workers all wash out.

The great scene comes when Mr. Burns addresses the washouts, saying, “I just want to tell you how disappointed I am with you. You all lack a certain something. An indefinable character flaw, which caused your failure.” At the risk of over-explaining the joke, Mr. Burns is considering the players poor athletic skills as indicators of poor character. Of course the thought that they were beer-logged middle-aged desk jockeys competing against professional athletes doesn’t occur to him. It’s all part of a greater story line in his mind, one where internal character always defines performance.

So it is with newspaper writers in general. When a team wins, it is proof of their greater character than the team which lost. The closer the outcome, the more proof it is that it wasn’t a lack of skill, but rather a lack of character which caused the loss. Over the course of a season, the Phils came one game shy of the Wild Card, and almost that close to winning the NL East. But they fell short. And so, as human beings, we look to answer the questions why?

Back to the original point, as statheads, we look and look for some measurable reason why the Phils failed. Maybe, if we can find it, we can fix it. Maybe if we’re smart enough, we can be winners. Likewise, writers look in their crystal balls, and usually find goats to blame for the teams’ overall failure (such as Ed Wade or Mike Lieberthal or Bobby Abreu). Maybe if we replace those people with winners (which are generally hazily defined as “I know one when I see one”), then we can be winners.

But what if the truth is that baseball is not a perfectly predictable game? What if the difference between an 88 game winning team and a 95 game winning team is less than people think? What if it often comes down to a few breaks no one could have predicted? What if the Phils played as well as they could have and just came up short? Is that so unacceptable?

The Phils scored over 800 runs last year. When it comes to the point where we are chasing ill-defined terms for a lousy 15 (less than 2%) runs a season, can’t we just say “Well, maybe it’s a rounding error.” Isn’t it possible that the hazy fog of luck is greater than the baserunning errors we sometimes see our Phils make?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

An interesting question...

Bonds' chances of catching Aaron are iffy right now.

If you were able to decide, would you want Bonds to set the new HR record, or not?

If you have nothing to do, read this article

It's much ado about nothing. Speculation built on speculation about Abreu.

You might find this article interesting...

Talking about the teams which are best at various positions throughout all time. The Phills are mentioned as having the second best third base position in history, and the worst second base of all time, with a shout out to Utley, saying he'll probably end up being the best second baseman in Phills history before he's done. That is not saying a whole lot.

Monday, February 20, 2006

I admit this blog is pretty funny...

Check it out. PhilliesSucks.com has a count down to 10,000 losses by the Phillies, which looks like it will occur sometime in late 2007. I think the city should have a parade or something.

Imagine the thrill of lining up with literally tens of people, looking at all time terrible players and managers from the past who contributed to so much futility. My only question would be who would be the grand marshall of the 10,000 loser parade? I suspect this guy has his opinions.

What do you think? What one man or woman contributed the most to your continuing Phillies misery? Who would you stay up for all night to throw tomatoes at at the 10,000 loser parade? Vote in the Comments section.

Well, this is discouraging...

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Phils don't have a single prospect in the top 50.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Player Highlight: David Bell

For the next several weeks, I am going to highlight players who will be critical to the Phillies success this year. While every player counts, some may have a bigger impact on the playoff hunt this year than is generally thought. First player: David Bell.

I know, I know. How can David Bell possibly be considered a big part of anything? He's error prone, and was a complete black hole in the lineup. Bear with me.

First of all, David Bell is highly underrated in the Philadelphia Market as a defensive third baseman, considered to be the 8th best in baseball by some measures. That will likely be consistent in '06. Don't discount the importance of saved runs. And no one in baseball starts the 5-4-3 DP faster than Bell, IMHO. This defensive measure probably reflects that.

Second, it is true that Bell was a black hole in '05 in the lineup. And due to his age, he's not likely to be a whole lot better in '06. But not likely isn't a certainty. His Baseball Prospetus Forecast shows his 50% projection to be an anemic .311 .361 OBP and SLG. That's below replacement level, and is about what he did in '05.

However, his 90% level is .353 .427 OBP and SLG. While this isn't great, it beats the heck out of '05, and would be worth some 3 wins more than his '05 level.

The point I'm trying to make is Abreu will probably not outperform his '05 level. Nor is it likely that Utley, or Burrell, or Rollins. Nor will Rowand outdo the '05 platoon of Lofton and Michaels. Where can the Phillies improve offensively? If the worst '05 performers raise their level to even slightly above replacement level, the offense will be significantly better.

Another point is made by Jason Weitzel. David Bell is one of the best hitters we have against lefties. Given the fact that most of the rest of the team hits from the south side, his continued production will be absolutely necessary in 2006.

Considering the Phillies really don't have any better options for third, Bell's 2006 performance will be critical to our win total. If Bell can outperform expectations, the Phillies will be picking up some real production from a spot we're not really anticipating it. His 90% projection is certainly attainable. If he manages it, it will go a long way towards a playoff berth.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Shaking off the dust around here. I think some cleaning is required...

Because I'm finally gonna start blogging again! Woo-hoo!!!

Naturally, I have lots to say. Given the total lack of interest in my previous blogging incarnations, I doubt there will be a whole lotta feedback, but I care not! I cannot remain silent any longer. It's Spring Training again!

It's the most wonderful time of the year!