Saturday, June 12, 2004
The Phils are, by any objective measure, doing well. Check out their league (NL)-wide ranks:
Home Runs: 4th
Slugging Average: 4th
On-Base Percentage: 3rd
1. Colorado: .270
2. Houston: .266
3. St. Louis: .265
4. Phillies: .265
5. Chicago: .261
6. San Francisco: .260
7. Cincinnati: .257
8. Los Angeles: .255
9. Florida: .254
10. Pittsburgh: .252
11. Arizona: .250
12. San Diego: .249
13. Atlanta: .247
14. New York: .245
15. Milwaukee: .244
16. Montreal: .220
1. Colorado: .194
2. St. Louis: .183
3. Chicago: .180
4. Philadelphia: .178
5. Arizona: .169
6. Cincinnati: .168
7. Atlanta: .157
8. Florida: .156
9. New York: .155
10. Houston: .153
11. Los Angeles: .149
12. San Francisco: .148
13. Milwaukee: .144
14. Pittsburgh: .140
15. Montreal: .122
16. San Diego: .116
So, pretty much, the Phils are one of the top four teams in the NL, along with the Rockies, the Cardinals and Cubs. Interestingly, the Phils are ninth in the MLB in OBP, despite having a hole in the nine-slot with the pitcher. Predictably, the top six MLB teams are all AL clubs, but the Phils OBP is slightly better than the A's. Who would have thought that?
-I suppose that the scoring binge in the White Sox – Phils “series” wasn’t entirely unexpected: the White Sox are leading the AL in slugging (.475) and are third in OBP (.354). They are also tied for second in runs with the Tigers, the Phils next interleague foe.
-I was startled to see "the Greek God of walks" Kevin Youkilis in the Red Sox lineup the other day: his GPA is an impressive .290 ... I wonder if Billy Beane is still trying to acquire him ...
GPA [(1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA]
Rollins recent tear has really impressed me. In his last eleven games he has had eight multi-hit games. He still isn’t drawing very many walks (four in those eleven games) but his BB / K ratio is 1:1 during the span and it looks like Rollins has become a dependable singles hitter. I just wonder how long this will last …
Glanville .190 (altogether now … “Why?”)
Utley really has to up his OBP to justify breaking back into the lineup. I thought that Larry was going to go with Utley at DH, but you certainly cannot argue with Ledee’s performance against the Twins (3-for-5, three runs, five RBIs).
ISO: [.SLG - .BA = ISO]
I’ve been disturbed by Burrell’s performance of late: he’s struck out eight times in the last four games and is mired in a three for twenty-three slump. His ISO numbers have taken a tumble because he hasn’t had an extra-base hit since he hit a home run against the Mets on May 31. During that time his slugging average has declined seventy points.
Glanville .055 (altogether now … “Why?”)
Runs Created: [see below]
I got these numbers from the ESPN website: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) * (TB + .26[BB - IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])] /(AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). Yeah, complicated. I don’t have the time to calculate from the simpler formula I found on baseball reference. (Click here for ESPN's stat glossary.)
The Phils are in the middle of a grueling ten games in ten days haul. They had a game scheduled for every day from June 8 to the 20th. If they weather this stretch well they’ll be in a position to meet the Fish on even terms. As much as Larry hates the fact that the Fish get to pummel the Rays for three games and the Phils have to play the Red Sox, the fact of the matter is that when interdivision play begins again the Phils must improve their 10-15 record against the NL East. That is where the NL East will be won: in Miami, not in Boston.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
-Most of the people who read A Citizen's Blog or I'm Not An Athlete, or Phillies Fan or Shallow Center are, I suspect, exactly like me: I love the game of baseball. I love stats. As a kid I loved sitting down and jotting down BA, runs, RBIs all from memory. There was always something powerful and interesting about numbers: what it told you about the game, what it told you about the players, etc. And for kids like me who didn't or couldn't play baseball well or even at all (me: one spectactularly awful little league season consisting of a BA probably under .100 and an inability to throw to first base without sending the ball sailing into clump of tree next to the field), watching the game and recording all of the stats are our way of appreciating the game.
(Don't confuse a love of statistics with an aptitude for math: Law School, I've decided, is where History and Political Science majors go to get jobs that don't require knowing algebraic formulas.)
To see the A's utilize stats in their day-to-day operations as much as they do is impressive. The A's management seems more like fans than your typical vision of the GM as being an ex-player. There is a certain sensation that comes over people when they read Moneyball, a kind of Walter Mitty-type feeling that had me imagining myself sitting in Ed Wade's office explaining what I'd do as the Phils GM ...
I admire Bill James and the rest of those who have developed sabremetrics. This is a world that, until I began reading baseballprimer.com last year, I had barely begun to appreciate. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that a page of history is worth a volume of logic, and after reading about the origins of sabremetrics I understand the mindset and thought-process at work.
Because of Moneyball I've been keeping track of new stats like Gross Productive Average (GPA) and Isolated Power (ISO):
The GPA formula is simple: (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = GPA; it is a pretty nifty formula to measure a player's contribution to his team's lineup by measuring his ability to get on base and his ability to knock in big hits. (The ability to get on base and avoid making outs being prized over power.) Aaron Gleeman developed the stat (many thanks to Bill Liming for the source) and my understanding is that it is followed by the L.A. Dodgers new GM John DePodesta, formerly Billy Beane's No. 2 in Oakland.
ISO is simple too: .SLG - .BA = .ISO; the idea of ISO is to strip away a player's singles from their hits to measure the rough percentage of extra-base hits a player makes. I like ISO because it is so basic (even a math-phobe like myself can do it) and I don't think many people keep track of it.
A third, very interesting, stat I've been trying to keep track of is Runs Created (RC). Runs Created were originally developed by Bill James to measure a player's contribution to a team's offense. There are many formulas for RC used (click here for an article about a modified version developed by James), but I use the one developed by baseball-reference: (H + BB) * (TB) / (PA). (PA = AB + BB + HBP + SF + SH.) ESPN.com, whom I've discovered has a pretty terrific stat page once you figure out what all of those acronyms actually measure (and, more importantly why those things are important), uses a different formula: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) * (TB + .26[BB - IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])] / (AB + BB + HBP + SH + SF)= RC (See, ESPN's stat glossary.)
ESPN's RC yields an interesting surprise: The Phils most valuable player isn't Jim Thome, but Bobby Abreu.
RC: (as of June 10, 2004)
Glanville: 4.6 (again: why?)
The flipside of that is that using GPA and ISO, Thome edges Abreu out:
Thome: .351 ISO ; .353 GPA
Abreu: .284 ISO ; .335 GPA
I'm certainly not the only Phils blogger keeping track of usually little-thought of stats: Phillies Fan does a terrific job calculating the Phillies "win-shares". I am awed by those who can understand complexities like Voros McCracken's DIPS ERA.
One more word about stats: I am still stunned by Lewis' description of James 1977 Baseball Abstract's attack on the fielding percentage statistic. More than anything else, I think that section of the book (Chapter Five, I think) encapsulates what sabremetrics is all about: the effort to render clean, unbiased, objective information about the game and those who play it. I am still fascinated by the idea of objectively quantifying defensive fielding stats. The latest and (seemingly) best one I've found (actually it was suggested to me) is ZR, or "Zone Rating", which is developed by STATS, INC. to measure the percentage of balls that enter a fielder's "zone". (See, ESPN's stats glossary again.) I haven't the faintest clue how accurate the data actually is, but it seems like the best measure of a player's defensive abilities I've found.
(Phillies fans, I am sure, will be less than thrilled to know that we are ninth of sixteen teams in ZR.)
Many thanks for wading through my sometimes digressing thoughts. More material after the weekend on the White Sox series and the Tigers series.
Phillies pitchers and their bruised ERA's should just feel lucky to escape with their dignity intact. I worry about what this series is going to do to the confidence of the Phillies pitching staff, and in particular Ryan Madson. I was happy to see him break into the starting rotation, but the poor kid got annihilated in his first start: he gave up more home runs (3) than he got outs (2)! That is going to mess up his confidence for a while. I am less worried about Eric Milton (not often that you give up four home runs and still win the game), but seeing themselves get knocked around must have been devistating for the rest of the staff.
One more day, one more grueling slugfest? I sure hope not: let's see game three turn into a pitchers duel. We'll see how Myers does... (his '04 BAA, I note, is pretty awful: .288)
I certainly don't worry about the Phils hitters. I didn't see very many zeroes in the box score when I looked at either game. (Lieberthal didn't get a run in game one and Bell didn't get a hit in game two, but aside from that every Phillies starter got a run and a hit in both games.) Pad the stats and go home boys...
Phillies OBP: (as of June 8, 2004)
1-6 : .328 (11th in NL)
7+ : .361 (2nd in NL)
It seems, to me, to be a marked difference and I wonder why: do the Phils just feast on relief pitching? The Phils reach a comfort level with the game? If the offense kicks it up a notch in the late innings then I wonder why the Phils are just 10-9 in one-run ballgames (last I checked).
Late Inning GPA: (as of June 7, 2004)
1. Colorado .271
2. Chicago .271
3. San Francisco .263*
4. Philadelphia .263
5. Pittsburgh .257
6. Los Angeles .257
7. Atlanta .257
8. Houston .252
9. San Diego .249
10. Milwaukee .245
11. New York .242
12. Cincinnati .236
13. Arizona .235
14. St. Louis .232
15. Florida .229
16. Montreal .213
* (The Giants recent tear has really boosted their statistical profile from the bottom of the heap to near the top. I personally suspect they aren’t that good, so I’d expect to see them decline a little in the short-term.)
[(1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = GPA]
Late Inning ISO: (as of June 7, 2004)
1. Chicago .180
2. Atlanta .178
3. Colorado .177
4. Cincinnati .165
5. New York .164
6. Arizona .159
7. Los Angeles .157
8. Pittsburgh .156
9. Philadelphia .148
10. San Francisco .145
11. St. Louis .144
12. Milwaukee .135
13. Florida .133
14. Houston .127
15. Montreal .127
16. San Diego .095
[ SLG – BA = ISO ]
Does any of this mean anything? I’m not sure. It caught me by surprise how poorly the Marlins do in the late innings: fifteenth in GPA and thirteenth in ISO. I had thought of them as being a team that excelled in the clutch: getting the vital hits and squeezing out the big runs. Honestly, there just isn’t any evidence to back up that bit of conventional wisdom: if anything, the Marlins appear to clam up in the late innings. Interestingly, so do the Cardinals, a real offensive powerhouse, but their late-inning numbers are disappointing.
I hope everyone has terrific plans for the weekend. I’ll be busy begging people for jobs and trying to cram information into my head … Enjoy!
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
What is amazing to me is that the A’s are just ninth in the AL in OBP, eleventh in runs, and seventh in slugging. At the end of Moneyball, Michael Lewis addressed criticism of the A’s anemic 2002 and 2003 offensive stats by stating that the A’s weren’t following their own script any more themselves because the market was getting too efficient: too many teams were looking for what they used to (e.g. the Toronto Blue Jays, the Boston Red Sox, the L.A. Dodgers, etc.) Is that true? By any measure, both of the Moneyball teams (the A’s and Blue Jays) aren’t doing well offensively: the Blue Jays have their own problems: eleventh in OBP, eleventh in runs, and twelfth in slugging. Are Beane and Riccardi failing to execute their own plans? Or are there internal problems with a pure-sabremetrics approach to baseball?
Why are the A's still winning? A: The A’s are being saved by their stingy pitching: they are first in the Major Leagues in ERA, despite playing in the land of the designated hitter. Overall their pitchers are hurling well, but Hudson and Mulder are a combined 13-4 (though I note that Hudson's BAA is about forty points lower than Mulder's) and they are really carrying that team. I hope for the A's sake that the Big Three go back to being the Big Three soon.
Comments on Moneyball are forthcoming ... Monday, my friends. Monday.
This ain't college football Larry: there are 162 games to be played. You can't schedule two or three gimmies to bolster your AP rankings.
Monday, June 07, 2004
When last I looked the Phils just finished being swept at home by the Mets. No disrespect to Mets fans, but … ugh! That is pretty awful. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the Phils are still just two in back of the fish and that they split their series with the Braves in Atlanta. Quite frankly, things could have gone much, much worse than that. Getting swept by the Braves would have had catastrophic consequences for the Phils: a seven game losing streak, four games behind the Fish … fourth place behind the Mets … those two wins were big. Now onto inter-league play …
I appreciated the novelty, when inter-league play began, of seeing the Mets and Yankees square off. Now I just sort of shrug my shoulders. How excited am I by the White Sox – Phils? Not very. There hasn’t been a great historical rivalry between the two cities, between the players, there isn’t bad blood between the White Sox and Phils, they’ve never met in the World Series before … It is just hard to sit down and feel shivers down my spine seeing the two teams play the way I have when the Phils played the Yankees or Red Sox … or when I went to last year’s Pirates-Red Sox “turn back the clock” night commemorating the centennial of the 1903 World Series … Honestly, it is just another series, except that the Phils get to play an extra bat because they are playing in an American League ballpark.
ISO (as of June 7, 2004):
[SLG – BA = ISO. It calculates extra-base hits by subtracting singles.)
I suppose that I should include Glanville in my numbers because he’s been playing so much but, as you’ll see with the GPA stats I’m befuddled by Bowa’s decision to play Glanville:
GPA (again, as of June 7, 2004):
Let me start by noting that Utley’s OBP has plunged fifty points since the beginning of the Mets series, which has badly impacted his GPA numbers: I’m disappointed that he’s only drawn three walks in ninety-eight at-bats. Even Glanville’s draw four in nearly half as many.
Speaking of whom … coincidence that the Phils have lost the last six games he’s played? I think not. I don’t understand the decision to play Glanville: he contributes little to the Phils lineup. It isn’t even like he has much of a track record: his respectable career batting average of .280 comes attached to a career OBP of .317 (career GPA: .239) … He doesn’t have much pop from the plate (career ISO: .108) … he isn’t much of a table-setter, he doesn’t have power … he just doesn’t contribute much of anything to the Phils lineup … I’d like to see the Phils hit Utley or Bell second for this series and give Byrd another shot at leading off and playing centerfield. Maybe have Pratt catch and DH Lieberthal to give him a few days to hit without having to squat behind the plate …
Hey, thanks for all of the comments about stats and Moneyball (which I finished today, by the way: my full thoughts on Lewis’ book are on their way). I love the contributions everyone makes to my blog, and I appreciate the interest everyone has in what I have to say. It means a lot to me.