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Friday, June 04, 2004

The Power of ISO! 

Probably not much of a surprise that the teams that lead the league in ISO are also some of the top offensive performers:

2004 ISO: (as of May 31, 2004)
1. Colorado .196
2. Chicago .185
3. St. Louis .184
4. Philadelphia .175
5. Arizona .172


2004 GPA:
1. Colorado .272
2. Houston .270
3. Pittsburgh .264
4. Chicago .263
5. St. Louis .262

What struck me though, looking at ISO stats compared with GPA, was that teams could be successful without much power: the Padres are fifteenth of sixteen teams in the NL in ISO (.122, just .005 ahead of the Expos), but they are tenth in GPA and they have played well in ’04. Ditto the Pittsburgh Pirates: eleventh in ISO (.154), but third in GPA (.264). DePodesta and Beane are probably correct in that the ability of an offense to produce runs is intrinsically intertwined with its ability to get on base and prevent itself from making outs. Thus, power is less important than the simple ability to get on base, which is why I’d like to see the Phils improve their OBP from sixth over all (which is what their GPA ranking is too), to close the gap with their impressive ISO numbers.

I ran the home ISO numbers and got this:

2004 ISO (home)
1. Colorado .232
2. Chicago .204
3. Philadelphia .200
4. Arizona .190
5. St. Louis .173

In the case of the Rockies and Cubs and Phils, these are teams that rely upon their ability to clobber the ball in their home ballparks to generate offense. What disturbs me is that the Phils road ISO is a pretty anemic twelfth: .150, ahead of just the Dodgers (.147), San Diego (.131), Montreal (.127), and San Francisco (.109). (The Rockies, I note, when removed from the cozy confines of Coors fall to an ordinary eighth, with .160 …) One problem that caught my eye: of the twenty-plus games that comprise the Phils road stats, four of them were against the Rockies at Coors, thus the Phils anemic ISO numbers are probably inflated. Chew on that.

Mercifully, the Phils ability to draw walks on the road is pretty impressive. They are a tale of two ball clubs: home run sluggers at home, tough outs and doubles hitters (they are second in doubles after Atlanta on the road) on the road.

One team that struck me as well-prepared to excel was the Cardinals: fifth in home ISO, but first in road ISO with a robust .194 … the Cards offense strikes me as being very efficient and powerful at home and on the road. These guys could score a lot of runs…

In case you guys were wondering who the top ISO teams were in 2003 …

2003 ISO
1. Atlanta .191
2. Colorado .178
3. St. Louis .175
4. Houston .168
5. Milwaukee .163

… and in 2002 …

2002 ISO
1. San Francisco .175
2. Chicago .167
3. Philadelphia .163
4. Colorado .158
5. St. Louis .157

Update Monday! I’m officially graduating from law school this weekend!

(4) comments

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Glanville No. 2? Huh? 

Well, the Phils are 3-5 since laying the smack down on the NL West. These last two losses have impacted the Phils offensive stats, dropping from fourth to sixth in the NL in GPA …

2004 GPA
1. Colorado .272
2. Houston .270
3. Pittsburgh .264
4. Chicago .263
5. St. Louis .262
6. Philadelphia .260

Remarkably, despite struggling at the bat in 2003 with Burrell and Bell’s woes, the Phils were fourth in GPA last season, though they are slightly ahead of that pace this year …

2003 GPA
1. Atlanta .276
2. St. Louis .271
3. Colorado .266
4. Philadelphia .259
5. Houston .259

Same thing back in ’02, pre-Thome / end of Rolen era …

2002 GPA
1. San Francisco .265
2. Arizona .262
3. St. Louis .258
4. Philadelphia .258
5. Colorado .257

Interesting to see so many of the usual suspects: Colorado, the Phils, the Cardinals, the Astros up at the top each year. These last few days the Phils saving grace has been David Bell: since moving up to the two slot, he’s been on fire. Presently he has a five game hitting streak, and he has been hitting .444 with three RBIs and three runs scored. I was disappointed to see him moved down to sixth (and even more disappointed to see Glanville in the two slot).

Alright. I’ll calculate ISO when I get a chance!

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

GPA / ISO update! 

The Phils regular starting lineup:

Thome: .345 GPA / .329 ISO
Abreu: .321 GPA / .259 ISO
Burrell: .328 GPA / .239 ISO
Bell: .286 GPA / .186 ISO
Utley .263 GPA / .244 ISO
Lieberthal: .229 GPA / .167 ISO
Rollins: .216 GPA / .084 ISO
Polanco: .215 GPA / .090 ISO
Byrd: .212 GPA / .086 ISO
(current to May 31, 2004)

GPA: (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = GPA

First I should note that Utley has declined quite a bit these last few days, which isn’t overly surprising because he had gotten off to such a hot start and was bound to cool off. The sample size of his performance was so small, his statistical decline was fairly rapid.

Second, many thanks to Bill Liming for identifying the origins of the GPA stat for me: Aaron Gleeman.

I have a busy couple of days, so check back at the end of the week!

(1) comments

Moneyball, Page 160... 

Just a quick update for this afternoon: I've been tearing my way through Moneyball these last few days. It is a terrific book: very readable, very insightful. Judging the book strictly by its prose, I'm impressed by Lewis' skill as a writer. The key to understanding and enjoying this story is to get a sense of the insider's joy of building a baseball team, and I get that when I read Moneyball. DePodesta and Beane's not-so-silent joy at being able to thumb their nose at the baseball establishment comes through, and I think that Lewis breaks down the strategies that the A's employ fairly well: as someone who thought that sabremetics was all about OBP (now I follow stats like ISO, OPS, and I'm working at understanding GPA), I understand it a little more now ... but I've barely scratched the surface.

The chapter on Bill James alone was worth the $11 bucks ... when I read about James rage about fielding stats in his 1977 abstract, I could imagine how Beane felt reading James books for the first time because it was how I felt at that moment: someone opened my eyes to looking at something in an utterly new light. It is, I imagine, a little like how people felt to stand in the presence of Lau-Tzo or Jesus Christ or Siddhartha: to be on the receiving end of wisdom from someone who maybe hasn’t figured it all out, but whose understanding of what is important is a quantum leap ahead of yours. I never considered, never wondered, about whether the way I was looking at something was right, whether there was another way ...

So yeah, I'm in awe.

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More fun with stats…Part 2! 

GPA [(1.8 * .OBP + .SLG ) / 4 = .GPA]
1. Colorado .274
2. Houston .270
3. Pittsburgh .265
4. Philadelphia .263
5. St. Louis .262
6. Chicago .260
7. Cincinnati .255
8. Florida .255
9. San Diego .253
10. Los Angeles .252
11. San Francisco .250
12. Atlanta .248
13. Milwaukee .247
14. Arizona .247
15. New York .245
16. Montreal .211

ISO [.SLG - .BA = .ISO]
1. Colorado .199
2. Chicago .185
3. St. Louis .183
4. Philadelphia .176
5. Arizona .175
6. Florida .175
7. Atlanta .160
8. Los Angeles .159
9. Houston .158
10. Cincinnati .158
11. Pittsburgh .156
12. New York .151
13. Milwaukee .148
14. San Francisco .140
15. San Diego .121
16. Montreal .114

I thought that the numbers were really interesting, chiefly because it looks like teams like the Astros, Pirates and Padres are winning games by playing small ball: an efficient offense, but less power there in those lineups. In the case of San Diego, there appears to be no power in the lineup (Sean Burroughs has an ISO of .068 … His GPA is a more respectable .268 …) after Giles. In contrast, the Cubs, Diamondbacks and Braves look like they are relying upon their power to score too many runs. This bodes ill for the playoff chances of the Cubbies: as I’ve seen it, a team that relies on the dinger in the regular season dies by the strikeout in the playoffs.

I’d say that the two most dangerous teams, after the always potent Rockies, in the NL are the Cardinals and Phils. Neither team relies too much on the long ball, both offenses seem efficient and able to draw walks and hit for power. The Cardinals probably have the deadliest 3-4-5 in the NL: Rolen (.332 GPA), Pujols (.331), and Edmunds (.306) …

How in the heck are the Marlins still so successful?: they strike out twice as much as they walk, they are successful stealing just 68% of the time (30 of 44) … their ability to hit a few dingers in big spots?

An aside … I enjoyed watching TBS coverage of the Braves and Phils over the weekend. As J.D. Drew stepped to the plate the broadcasting team noted, a touch of sarcasm, Drew’s “warm reception” by the fans at Citizens. You could tell he was straining not to say anything nasty.

I remember going to the game after the infamous battery-tossing game in 1999: Drew clubbed a solo shot to the centerfield in the fifth and a fan threw it back, to the approving roars of the crowd. Yes, we all hate J.D. Drew, but we can respect that he’s a talented player (.330 GPA).

Alright ... what did I tell you? Big update!

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More fun with stats…Part 1! 

I came across (on Hardball Times) the Gross Productive Average (GPA) stat, which I believe is a stat that Dodgers GM and ex-Billy Beane lieutenant John DePodesta developed out of his concern that the OPS index over-valued slugging percentage. The system developed by Beane & DePodesta in Oakland values OBP above all else because, as I am to understand it, the capacity to get on base and avoid making outs indefinitely prolongs a team’s offensive chances … simply put, if you can avoid making outs, you can make runs. DePodesta weighted the OBP a little less than twice that of slugging average to account for the need for power in the lineup. This is the formula I used in calculating GPA:

(1.8 * .OBP + .SLG ) / 4 = GPA

It should be correct. I ran the numbers (current as of May 27, 2004), and here is what I got for the Phils starting lineup, plus Chase Utley:

Thome: .358
Abreu: .335
Burrell: .319
Utley: .302
Bell: .274
Lieberthal: .238
Byrd: .229
Polanco: .215
Rollins: .211

That Thome leads the Phils in GPA isn’t a surprise at all given that Thome does so well in both OBP and slugging. He really is the complete player. Thome has a career ISO of .284; and a career GPA of .328 …

Surprising things I noticed: Burrell’s career ISO is higher than that of Abreu (.221 v. .210), but Abreu has a vastly superior GPA (.313 v. Burrell’s .278). Burrell is the focal point of the Phillies attack now, but the GPA formula points to Abreu as the more important player ...

The thing that caught me mildly by surprise was how badly Lieberthal was faring: I didn’t think that Byrd was doing particularly well, and to see Lieberthal just a few points ahead of one of the Phils lighter-hitting players caught me by surprise. I still thought that Lieberthal was doing a better job getting on base than that.

Rollins was the shocker though: I was skeptical at the beginning of the season when I read that he was working with Tony Gwynn to lower his K/BB ratio and make contact more often. In his career to date, Rollins has a GPA of .240: his OBP is a terrible .316, but his slugging average is a respectable (for a lead-off guy) .389 … The problem, people noted, is that Rollins career K/BB ratio is roughly 2-to-1. Rollins, the conventional wisdom went, had too many strikeouts to make a reliable lead-off man. In his first 44 games of the year, much to my amazement, Rollins has successfully dropped his strikeouts: 18 K’s / 15 BB’s: 1.2-to-1 ratio… (Marlon Byrd, much to my disappointment, continues to wif: his 2.1 to 1 ratio this season is roughly in line with his career 2.23 to 1 ratio) … it is just that Rollins isn’t walking a whole lot more (.341 walks a game in '04 v. .329 walks a game in his career). Those pitches he makes contact with aren’t dropping for hits either. It is a frustrating thing, about Jimmy Rollins, that he’s done what people asked of him: cut the strikeouts, and he still isn’t cutting it.

Oh, and I added up Bell’s career numbers: .142 ISO; .239 GPA. One wonders how much his current success is a fluke:

Check out the reserves:

Ledee: .359
Pratt: .287
Perez: .255
Glanville: .207

Jeez, Larry: if you are going to sub Byrd for anyone, make it Ledee, not Glanville. Make it Perez! Make it Pratt! Just don’t let Glanville near a bat!

Anyway, GPA is an interesting stat. I like the fact that it places such a high value on getting on base but still rewards players for power: with as many walks as Barry Bonds draws a season, he isn’t paid millions of dollars to see four pitches sail by him in the dirt. He’s paid to bash the ball 400+ feet.

The Phils, overall, have a GDP of .265 (as of May 27, 2004 … see newer numbers below …) What caught me a little by surprise was how consistent the Phils offense is:

Road: .265
Home: .266

Certainly casts aspersions upon the conventional wisdom that Citizens is this offensive paradise. The Phils offense is just as effective on the road as at home, when judged by this standard. A closer look at the numbers underlying GPA is that the Phils are clubbing a lot of home runs at Citizens and a lot of doubles on the road. Otherwise, the Phils are walking and getting on base at a fairly consistent level at home and on the road. The Phils ISO numbers suggest that they are making a killing at home, but this doesn’t.

One thing that I noticed that the Phils have gotten better at GPA over the last few years:

Team GPA
2004: .265
2003: .259
2002: .258
2001: .252

(Remember, all stats current as of May 27, 2004) Anyway, this is a testament to the front office skill in developing and nurturing this team to the point it is now. The Phils starting lineup is doing well.

Addendum: I hate to beat a dead horse, but let me give you some stats I collected regarding the Phils starting pitchers batting:
.167 BA (96 AB’s; 16 Hits- 10 singles, 5 doubles and a Randy Wolf home run.)
.200 OBP (4 walks, no sacrifice flies or HBPs I noticed…)
.250 SLG (TB / AB = SLG; 24/96=.250)
.083 ISO (SLG – BA = ISO; .250 - .167 = .083)
.153 GPA ( (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = GPA ; (1.8 * .2 + .25) / 4 = .153)
Most pitchers can’t hit. Period. Give me the DH.

(4) comments

Monday, May 31, 2004

Citizens: Fun With Statistics 

A few days ago Hardball Times posted this story about their assessment of Citizens Bank Ballpark based on the first two months or so of play. The news is a little frightening: Citizens Bank rates fairly close to Coors, although the article notes that the emerging conventional wisdom is a little off because the Phillies have played quality opponents thus far at Citizens and thus, more runs being scored shouldn't be a shock. (The author also cautions that twenty games is a poor measure of the park.) Still, it lends credence to something that I've been fearing: Citizens is a pure hitter's park. Home runs are excitin for the fans, but the Phils strength should be their pitching and defense. I worry about the impact this will have on the Phils pitching staff: the strain of worrying about serving up a big home run on every at-bat, etc. Tales of good Colorado Rockies pitchers breaking down under the strain are legendary: Mike Hampton hasn't been the same pitcher since he went there in '01 as a free agent.

Statistically, I looked it up and found a few interesting stats on the subject:

I started off by measuring the Phils isolated power (slugging percentage - batting average = isolated power), their extrabase hits at Citizens in 2004 and the Vet in 2000-2003:

Citizens: .220 ISO
Road: .150 ISO

Vet: .166 ISO
Road: .151 ISO

Vet: .161 ISO
Road: .166 ISO

Vet: .162 ISO
Road: .147 ISO

Vet: .152
Road: .144


2004: +.070
2003: +.015
2002: -.005
2001: +.015
2000: +.008

Each year for the four previous seasons the Phillies remained fairly consistent: slightly better at home than away in getting extrabase hits. This season at Citizens has been a dramatic change: the deviation has been dramatic. Consider some more:

-The Phils have hit 59 doubles in their road games and just 29 at home.
-The Phils have hit just 20 home runs in their road games, and 38 at Citizens.

... because isolated power factors doubles and triples in with home runs, the dramatic rise in the Phils ISO rating is clearly due to the fact that they are hitting a lot more home runs at home. This team is getting quite a bit of power on the road, it is just that they are scoring a lot off the long ball at home.

The effect of swinging for the fences so often is troubling on the Phillies hitting tactics. Consider the Phil's K / BB ratio:

K / BB ratio
Road: 164 / 106
Home: 137 / 76

The biggest single indicator of a player's ability (or so I've read) is their walk to strikeout ratio because it indicates how well a hitter sees the ball. Players that walk as much or more than they strikeout are terrific major leaguers. The free swingers are the guys who play on mediocre teams that finish in last place. I can see the argument: a selective hitter is a smart hitter. Does this mean that the Phils turn into mindless free swingers at home? The evidence clearly shows that they aren't as effective at getting on base: the Phils OBP is actually higher on the road (.355 vs. .330) than at Citizens.

These are worrying trends. The fact that the Phils wif at a significantly higher rate at home than on the road is surprising, and a little disturbing to us all. It's almost like the Phils are two different teams, a Dr. Jekyll of free-swinging Colorado Rockies at home and a Mr. Hyde of careful Florida Marlins on the road. The Colorado Rockies, I would point out, went to the playoffs once, in 1995, and lost three out of four games. They haven't had a winning record in five of the last six years. The Marlins are the defending champs.

Perez game-winning home run against the Braves Friday Night.

(14) comments

Sunday, May 30, 2004

ISO Watch, Part 1 

I've been playing around learning a little more about sabremetrics on the web. Hardball Times keeps track of a lot of interesting stats. (I mention them to the detriment of no other - I have limited amounts of time, so I only read so much.) One stat they keep track of really interested me: Isolated Power (ISO).

Isolated Power is a really good way to measure the team's production of extrabase hits. ISO works by subtracting a team's slugging average from its batting average, thus counting the team's doubles, triples and home runs. Expressed as a formula:

(SLG) - (BA) = (ISO)

e.g.: let's consider catcher Todd Pratt:
BA: .308
SLG: .385
ISO: .077
(stats as of May 27, 2004)

(Pratt has the lowest ISO on the Phils but as anyone who follows the Phils will tell you, he is a terrific backup to Lieberthal, and his OBP is a phenomenal .424, higher than even Abreu, the Phils OBP machine. Pratt's 26 AB's is a pretty small sample: his '03 ISO was .192 ... So true, ISO isn't a terrific measure of a player's skill.)

I think that it is a really interesting stat for the reason that it gives you a really good idea about how explosive a team's offense really is: you don't win games by hitting single after single after single. You could get three consecutive singles and still fail to score even one run. A team needs power, and ISO is a good way of keeping track of that: you can clear the bases on a double. It is a run-producing hit. A home run is the ultimate weapon.

So I've decided to keep track of the Phils ISO stats. Here are the Phils starting eight, plus Chase Utley:

Utley, .334
Thome, .333
Abreu, .287
Burrell, .225
Lieberthal, .177

Bell, .175
Byrd, .094
Polanco, .090
Rollins, .085

Little surprise how well Thome (for whom 50% of his hits are for extrabases) is doing, and fan-bloggers are well versed on what a terrific talent Chase Utley is. Overall, the Phils are doing quite well: the league average ISO is .160, and the Phils are batting a .180 ISO. The NL average ISO is .160 (as of May 28, 2004). The Braves: .160; the Marlins: .161 ...

I was really interested in the stats concerning the Phils reserves...

Ledee, .306
Perez, .265

Glanville, .081
Pratt, .077

I was thinking about Perez home run on Friday night against the Braves (see, above) and I am struck by the fact that Perez doesn't really have a reputation as a power guy, yet there are the facts of the matter.

Ledee, in particular, is hitting with a lot of power, chiefly away from Citizens. He looks like a good guy to bring in off the bench. Plus, he's leading the team in OBP (.442)

Anyway, I'll be keeping track of the Phils ISO stats for a bit and see if they bear fruit. Looking at Perez ISO stats and his walkoff shot against the Braves isn't such a surprise.

Oh, and ISO is yet another powerful argument for the Phillies to keep Doug Glanville on the bench and off the field.

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