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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Saturday, June 19, 2004

Was Twain Right?  

I was intrigued when I saw the dramatic differences in Burrell’s stats from when he played at home to when he played on the road: admittedly, it is based on just 1/3 of the season, but the Phils played four games at Coors Field and Burrell has hit one home run on the road (in 133 PA’s) and ten at home (in 116 PA’s). The stats are a pretty dramatic cleavage.

Burrell: (home / road / home advantage)
GPA: .338 / .275: +.063
ISO: .351 / .091: +.260
Secondary Avg: .553 / .273: +.280
RC27: 8.49 / 6.05: +2.44

Anyway, I was curious if any of the other Phils looked the same statistically, looked up their numbers and this is what I found:

Thome:
(home / road / home advantage)

GPA: .347 / .363: -.016
ISO: .447 / .316: +.127
Secondary Avg: .534 / .504: +.030
RC27: 9.12 / 10.21: -1.09

Abreu:
GPA: .326 / .348: -.022
ISO: .292 / .270: +.022
Secondary Avg: .604 / .525: +.079
RC27: 8.72 / 10.39: -1.67

Bell:
GPA: .287 / .263: +.024
ISO: .222 / .117: +.105
Secondary Avg: .356 / .234: +.131
RC27: 6.10 / 5.10: +1.00

Rollins:
GPA: .257/ .226: +.031
ISO: .168 / .052: +.116
Secondary Avg: .267 / .178: +.089
RC27: 5.34 / 3.70: +1.64

(I chose to compare Burrell with other power hitters in the Phils lineup like Abreu, Thome and Bell. I excluded Lieberthal because his numbers too dramatically proved my point: Lieberthal’s road ISO is higher than his Citizen’s ISO: .141 home; .196 road. I included Rollins because he is leading the Phils in PA’s, so his numbers are the widest sample of all of the Phils.)

Home Advantage:

GPA:
Burrell: +.063
Rollins: +.031
Bell: +.024
Thome: -.016
Abreu: -.022

ISO:
Burrell: +.260
Thome: +.127
Rollins: +.115
Bell: +.105
Abreu: +.022

Secondary Avg:
Burrell: +.280
Bell: +.131
Rollins: +.089
Abreu: +.079
Thome: +.030

RC27:
Burrell: +2.44
Rollins: +1.64
Bell: +1.00
Thome: -1.09
Abreu: -1.67

Clearly Burrell has reaped the largest benefit from Citizens than any other player in the Phils lineup. Burrell is getting on base, scoring runs and bashing home runs at a substantially bigger pace at home than on the road. Little question about that.

In the interests of full-disclosure I will note one bit of evidence that undercuts my arguments. As dramatic as the fact that Burrell has hit just one home run in 110 road at-bats, is the fact that David Bell has (narrowly) been worse, hitting just one in 111 road at-bats. (Bell has hit five home runs in 87 at-bats, much worse than Burrell’s ten in 94.)

[For those unfamiliar with the stats: Gross Productive Average (GPA) is a stat measuring your contribution to your team’s offense based on your ability to get on base and hit for power: 1.8 * .OBP + .SLG / 4 = GPA; Isolated Power (ISO) is a stat to measure how many extra-base hits you make by subtracting singles from your slugging average: .SLG - .BA = .ISO; Secondary Average is a stat I found at ESPN that measures how a player gains their bases: TB – H + BB + SB – CS / AB = Secondary Average; Runs Created per 27 Outs is a stat created by ESPN to measure how a hypothetical team made up of the same nine players would fare. ESPN’s Runs Created Formula is pretty complex.]

TB = Total Bases
CS = Caught Stealing

I’m reminded, writing this of Mark Twain’s aphorism that there are three types of lies: 1) Lies; 2) Damn Lies; and 3) Statistics. These numbers could be meaningless: too small a cross-section to look at, the product of a series against a high-scoring team at home, etc., but I suspect they aren’t. Burrell has clearly benefited from the comfort of Citizens “jet-stream”. Unlike Thome and Abreu, he is clearly a superior player at home than away. Bell has a slight Citizens factor too, but Burrell seems to clearly be a guy who likes to hit in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Ballpark.

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Friday, June 18, 2004

RC27 

I was perusing ESPN’s stats and I came across Runs Created per 27 Outs, which is supposedly a stat whose purpose is showing how many runs a hypothetical team of nine of the same player would score. I think that it gets around (to a certain extent) the fact that Runs Created is a counting stat and gives a truer sense of a player’s contribution to a team’s offense.

I remember the stat from Moneyball when Lewis quoted John DePodesta as saying that a team made up of nine Scott Hatteburgs would be one of the most efficient offenses in all of baseball.

Here are the Phils RC27 Stats:

Thome: 9.74
Abreu: 9.62
Burrell: 7.20
Bell: 5.55
Rollins: 4.39
Polanco: 4.06
Utley: 3.76
Lieberthal: 3.92
Byrd: 2.77

Bench:
Ledee: 10.25
Perez: 5.31
Michaels: 3.75
Pratt: 2.66
Glanville: 2.27

(stats current as of June 16, 2004)

(The idea of a team full of Jim Thome's would cause pitchers to scream and shake in their sleep.)

Alright. I need to do some work this weekend, but I’ll be back Sunday night with a big, big update. Everyone have a good weekend.

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Burrell's Stats... 

I was looking at the Phils stats today and I noticed a fairly startling stat. Look at the difference in Pat Burrell’s GPA and ISO stats at home and away:

Burrell’s GPA / ISO:
Home: .338 GPA / .351 ISO
Away: .275 GPA / .091 ISO

GPA is interesting, but Burrell's road / home ISO is startling. And here is a stat that should make everyone stand up and take notice:

At-Bats per Home Run …
Home: 9.4 (94 ABs / 10 HRs)
Away: 110.0 (110 ABs / 1 HR)

I haven’t noticed any other Phils player with a similar difference. Abreu’s road ISO isn’t much lower than his home ISO: .270 (road) / .292 (home); Thome has a variance (.316 road, .443 home), but it isn’t dramatic and he still hits with considerable frequency on the road: a home run every thirteen at-bats, compared with one home run per eight at-bats at home.

I'm not sure what conclusions to draw from this information: does Burrell really love the home crowd? Is he rattled on the road? Is Citizens tailor-made for him? Is this inability to hit on the road residue of his 2003 imposion?

I'll let ya'll speculate ...

(stats current as of June 16, 2004)

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Pirates-Angels... 

As I noted earlier last night's Pirates-Angels game I was at went fast, it took just 2:22 to play, which is absurdly fast. I enjoyed myself immensely, despite the fact that it rained just two hours before the game and it was fairly humid out there. Still, I love PNC Park (the view of the Allgeheny River and the skyline ... it is spectacular ...), and it was nice for my fiancee and I to spend time with our friends (both high school teachers who live west of Pittsburgh), who we don't get to see as often as we'd like.

Here is the box score, and here is the recap from Yahoo, if anyone is interested.

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2003, 2004 - A Comparison ...  

I was kind of curious about how the 2004 Phillies stacked up against the 2003 edition. The 2003 edition, we all recall, were a cursed lot who were expected to compete with the Braves for the division title but faltered out of the gate and ended up collapsing down the stretch, finishing third in the NL East.

2004 (Record after game 62): 33-29
2003 (Record after game 62): 33-29

Yeah, it is the exact same thing. It is a little dispiriting to think about: the '03 team had serious offensive woes, bad luck and terrible performances from David Bell and Pat Burrell. The '04 team has featured terrific seasons from the middle of the order, including Burrell and Bell, but this team is still just where they were last year (they had beaten the A's in the June 8 double-header). The '03 team played well in June (16-9), but basically played .500 ball the rest of the way.

The central problem with both teams were their lethal inability to beat the Marlins: the '03 squad was 6-13; the '04 team is 0-6.

At least we are ahead of the '02 team: 27-35 after losing to the Cleveland Indians on June 11. Alas, the '93 team was 45-17 at this stage, having defeated the Expos 10-3.

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Leadin’ Off… 

One of the biggest disappointments to the Phils season thus far has been the inability of Marlon Byrd to win the job of leadoff hitter and centerfield. Generally speaking, the Phils the first two slots in the Phils order haven’t produced much consistency or really set the table for Thome, Abreu and Burrell to knock them in.

I figured that I’d compare the production of the Phils leadoff guys with players on other teams:

Sean Burroughs (San Diego): .347 OBP / .250 GPA / .066 ISO
Matt Lawton (Cleveland): .397 OBP / .300 GPA / .163 ISO
Tony Womack (St. Louis): .336 OBP / .253 GPA / .114 ISO
Johnny Damon (Boston): .381 OBP / .277 GPA / .139 ISO

I chose these guys at random, and then I compared these four guys with the Phils three leadoff hitters:

Jimmy Rollins: .324 OBP / .237 GPA / .097 ISO
Marlon Byrd: .301 OBP / .214 GPA / .086 ISO
Doug Glanville: .262 OBP / .184 GPA / .052 ISO

The results, I don’t need to tell you, aren’t good, and I didn’t even factor in Polanco, who was having a mediocre season before he went on the DL. Of the three Rollins is the only one hitting with any consistency for an extended period of time (though Byrd has stepped things up of late), but none of the three has done much to distinguish themselves. Rollins, remarkably, succeeded in his mission of lowering his strikeouts, yet is still failing to draw more walks.

As the season stretches into the All-Star break it is going to start to be time for the contenders (Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs, Cardinals) to poach players from the swiftly collapsing pretenders (e.g., the Kansas City Royals). Out of everything, I’d have to say that the Phils desperately need to pick up a shortstop or a centerfielder who is an OBP machine. I like Marlon Byrd a lot and I thought that he’d be a terrific major leaguer, but he has really disappointed for the most part. Maybe he’ll have a terrific second-half in 2004 the way he did in 2003, but he isn’t consistent enough to trust with the leadoff slot. As for Rollins, I’m still disappointed with his performance, although he’s put in a stronger argument for batting leadoff than Byrd or (cue laughter) Glanville.

The bottom-line for the Phillies is that if a team wants to shop its shortstop or centerfielder, I’d say listen to them.

-Quick aside: I went to the Angels-Pirates game last night at PNC Park with my fiancee and friends of ours who got married. Pretty good game, but it went awfully quick: they were already in the 7th inning by 8:30! I had enormus fun at the 'ol ballpark, which I always do, especially when we hang out with our friends.

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Monday, June 14, 2004

400 ... 500? ... (600?) 

-During this evening’s game against the Reds Jim Thome hit his 400th home run of his career. It is a terrific moment for him and hopefully just a milestone on Thome’s way to hitting 500 home runs. Compared to Ken Griffey, Jr., Thome's path to 400 dingers has been pretty quiet: little hoopla, little talk of breaking Hank Aaron's record, but I think that fits Thome's persona ... I was excited when the Phils signed him for the ’03 season because he seemed to fit the Phils and the City of Philadelphia perfectly somehow: his toughness, his blue-collar background and work ethic. Thome just seems to be cut from the cloth of the working class immigrants who labored at the navy yard and built the city in the late 1800’s and early 20th century. You just look at Thome and you are filled with confidence that he'll rise to the challenge, that he'll carry the team and the city on his back without a word of complaint, and that he'll quietly get the job done.

Congrats, Jim.

-Stats!

GPA (as of June 14, 2004)
Thome: .358
Abreu: .331
Burrell: .305
Bell: .276
Lieberthal: .240
Rollins: .239
Polanco: .238
Utley: .223
Byrd: .213

Same old, same old. Rollins continues his slow, steady climb towards the “first division” of Thome, Bell, Burrell and Abreu, while Lieberthal, Byrd, et al., sink …

ISO (as of June 14, 2004)
Thome: .364
Abreu: .269
Burrell: .215
Utley: .208
Lieberthal: .174
Bell: .168
Polanco: .113
Rollins: .096
Byrd: .086

Not much change, but some positive news about Marlon Byrd: he’s hit .308 this month (.360 OBP), which means that he might be poised to step things up a notch in the second half of the season much like he did last year. After playing sparingly before the All-Star break in ’03, Byrd went on a tear last June hitting .364 BA (.449 OBP; .320 GPA). I wonder if it will be enough though to keep him in the lineup or preserve his slot as the lead-off guy.

More tomorrow.

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Being Defensive …  

As I’ve said … oh, probably about thirty times … I blew my mind reading Michael Lewis’ description of Bill James 1977 Baseball Abstract and its attack on fielding percentage as a statistic on the grounds that it was subjective and failed to measure a player’s actual defensive ability in Moneyball (see, p. 66 of the paperback version). The idea that fielding percentage is both an inaccurate gauge of a player’s ability and is subjective is vital to understanding Moneyball and sabremetrics.

I was intrigued by the idea of quantifying a player’s defensive ability and expressed frustration at how subjective defense really is. An at-bat has an objective outcome: you get on base or you make an out. A pitch has an objective outcome: it is a strike, a ball or it is put in play positively or negatively. Defense is subjective: if something is an error or a successful play depends upon one’s point of view: how many times have you gone to baseball game and seen a close call where the third baseman grabs the ball, bobbles it for a split-second, and then throws to first and narrowly misses getting the runner. Error? Was he playing too deep? Was the ball too well-hit to play anyway?

We know good defense when we see it: Willie Mays catch in the 1954 World Series is the best defensive play I’ve seen. We know bad defense when we see it: Chuck Knobloch beaning people in the stands throwing to first base while playing for the Yankees comes to mind … sitting in my bar exam lecture Friday afternoon during the seventh and final excruciating hour of lecture I began thinking about the inability to quantify defensive stats when the lecturer, who was talking about U.S. Constitutional Law, began discussing obscenity (i.e. pornography). The lecturer, illustrating the gray areas of the law, quoted Justice Potter Stewart’s famous statement that he’d know pornography when he saw it. Lacking in clear guidelines as to what constitutes pornography, the lecturer intoned, the legal standard of obscenity is very subjective: Maxim could be considered obscene in Salt Lake City, but not in New York City. (Tellingly, Wal-Mart refuses to stock Maxim but they carry Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series. My local Barnes and Noble here in the city of Pittsburgh carries Maxim, Stuff, FHM and all of those “laddie” magazine knock-offs, but jams their copies of “Left Behind” in the back of the store.) A good defensive player reminds me of … well … obscenity. I’ll know good defense when I see it. (Read the difference between Johnny Damon and Terrence Long playing centerfield on pages 135-136 on Moneyball.)

The best defensive stat is not fielding percentage (read Moneyball’s Chapter Five to find out how inaccurate and anachronistic a statistic fielding percentage really is), but ZR. (I’ll explain.) A recent look at the Phils ZR stats revealed an interesting bit of information to me.

Consider the differences between Phillies second basemen Placido Polanco and Chase Utley: the consensus I have read is that Polanco is the superior defensive second baseman and the better on-base man, whereas Utley hits for more power and needs to work on his defense and selectivity at the plate. Here is a startling thought: Utley is the better defensive second baseman.

Fielding Percentage: (as of June 10, 2004)
Polanco: .987
Utley: .968

Polanco has just two errors, while Utley has four. Polanco has turned more double plays (21 to 12), made more put-outs (67 to 54), and has more assists than Utley (81 to 68). But here is the kicker: Utley’s ZR is higher:

Zone Rating (ZR): (as of June 10, 2004)
Polanco: .795
Utley: .871

What in the heck is ZR? ZR is “Zone Rating”, a statistic developed by STATS, INC to attempt to objectively quantify defensive ability by measuring how much a player dealt with balls hit into his defensive “zone”. STATS, INC. divides the field into quadrants and then measures the balls entering the quadrant and how successful that player is in playing that ball. (I hasten now to confess to not being entirely certain what I just said is accurate: Steve from Mariners Wheelhouse recently told me that ZR’s formula makes it a counting stat. I am working off ESPN’s definition of ZR: “The percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive ‘zone,’ as measured by STATS, Inc.” If I have utterly misunderstood ZR I apologize for leading everyone astray.) Thus, it is strongly suggested that Utley is the better defensive second baseman.

Other applications of ZR:
-Tomas Perez has logged about 160 innings of work filling in around the infield and he has done well: his second base ZR is .889, etc.

-Bobby Abreu looks to be the Phils top outfielder:
Abreu: .884
Burrell: .849
Byrd: .832
Glanville: .809 (again: why?)

-Phils are ninth in ZR right now of 16 teams with .847 … the Fish are fourth in ZR. Unsurprisingly, Colorado is fifteenth (.834), but much to my surprise the Pittsburgh Pirates are dead last in ZR (.817), despite being a pretty decent defensive team.

-A good reason why the Padres are going to be tough in the post-season despite their lack of offensive firepower: they are third in ZR (.860) …

-The Phils were second in ZR in ’03. (.859 to the Giants .860 …)

Something to think about …

(Hey, if I screwed up the understanding of what exactly ZR is, someone tell me and don’t spare my feelings.)

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