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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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Gone to Ohio… 

I almost had a heart-attack reading the headline at THT: “Around the Majors: Phillies sign Milton”. WHAT?!?!?! Never mind what a bad idea that was, how was that possible since the Phillies had rejected arbitration with him. It was just a misprint: Eric Milton inked a three year, $25.5 mil deal with the Reds. With Milton in Cincinnati, and Kevin Millwood poised to signing with the Cleveland Indians, it looks like the Phillies #1 and #2 starters have found homes in Ohio. Here’s why the Reds got a bad deal, and why the Indians could make a good one …

Milton / Reds

Let’s start with Milton’s 2004 stats …

ERA: 4.75
FIP ERA: 5.38
DER: .737 (team: .703)
G/F ratio: 0.57
HR/9: 1.9
K/9: 7.2
BB/9: 3.4

FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: [13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP + League Factor]
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: % of balls put into play fielders turn into outs.
G/F – Groundball-to-Flyball ratio.
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings.
ZR (Zone Rating): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.

The two numbers that jump out at me are the terrific defense he got in 2004 from the Phillies, and the number of flyballs and home runs he surrendered. Milton got great play from a very good Phillies defense that was sixth in the NL in Zone Rating and second in fielding percentage. The Reds were ninth in ZR and thirteenth in fielding percentage, not bad but a definate downgrade. The quality of defense that Milton is leaving is going to unmask a lot of his flaws as a pitcher. That +5.00 FIP ERA is going to be closer to his actual ERA in 2005, I bet.

Park Factor: when Great American opened I was stunned to see how many home runs were hit. Surprisingly, according to ESPN’s Park Factors page, Great American had a home run factor of just 1.048, thirteenth in baseball. (This gives me great confidence that Citizen’s home run reputation will be unmasked as much ado about nothing in 2005.) So Milton is probably leaving a place that accentuated his flyball flaws (Citizen's was fifth in baseball in homers), but he’s hardly going to Safeco field. He’ll give up home runs, and he’ll give up a lot. Remember, Milton surrendered 43 home runs in 2004, but just 20 were at Citizens Bank. Milton gave up 23 home runs on the road, despite facing fewer batters there.

Not good, Cincinnati. Not good. You guys are getting a bad deal.

Millwood / Indians

ERA: 4.85
FIP ERA: 3.82
DER: .673 (team: .703)
G/F ratio: 1.10
HR/9: 0.9
K/9: 8.0
BB/9: 3.3

Millwood pitched a lot better than he looked in 2004. The Phillies seemed to give up a lot of cheap hits with him on the mound for some reason. Give Millwood credit: he didn’t give up a lot of flyballs and he didn’t surrender many home runs in a stadium built for shattering home run records. Millwood’s K-to-BB ratio was a sterling 2.5 to 1. My sole worry for Millwood is the poor quality of the Indians defense: 12th (of 14) in the AL in ZR. Ouch.

Still, I think Millwood will pitch well as an Indian and he could give the Tribe a lot of help in the weak AL Central. I’m hardly guaranteeing a pennant, but a healthy Millwood could give Cleveland a leg up on Minnesota or Chicago.

Sorry Reds fans, you'll soon see why our team didn't offer arbitration.

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Monday, December 27, 2004

By the numbers, 2 

First off I want to wish everyone Happy Holidays. I hope the season was good to everyone out there. I spent time with my wife’s family and called my own on Christmas Day. I’m going out to visit my parents and family in Chester County on Wednesday (so posts only today and tomorrow) … Christmas was good to the Wexford branch of the Berquist clan. My wife and I got some neat gifts. One of my Christmas presents from my wife was a Pat Burrell jersey, which I plan to wear when the Phils come to town, getting groceries, pumping gas, well … pretty much all of the time.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming ... There are a few baseball sites on the net that I think are worth their weight in gold. I read Aaron Gleeman’s blog every morning, and I read the latest stories at The Hardball Times each and every day. One of my favorite features at THT are the graphs developed by Studes that track the progress and development of the season. In particular I pay careful attention to Studes’s DER / FIP graphs, which keep track of a team’s defense and pitching.

First a little glossary (for all of our new readers out there)… FIP is Fielding Independent Pitching, a variation on Voros McCracken’s DIPS ERA, that measures how a pitcher would have performed with an “average” defense behind him. The formula is: (13xHR + 3xBB - 2xK)/IP, plus the "league factor" (I always use 3.20). DER is Defense Efficiency Ratio, basically what percentage of balls put into play do the team’s fielders convert into outs.

Studes structures the graphs fairly simply, the higher on the X axis, the better a team pitches. The higher on the Y axis, the better a team fields. Depending on what quadrant you fall into is how your team does defensively:

Top Right: Above-Average FIP & DER
Top Left: Above-Average DER / Below-average FIP
Bottom Right: Above-Average FIP / Below-average DER
Bottom Left: Below-Average FIP & DER

Here is what the leagues looked like in 2004:

American League

FIP+ / DER+: Boston / Oakland
DER+: Tampa, Seattle, Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays
FIP+: Anaheim, New York Yankees, Baltimore
Neither: Kansas City, Cleveland, Detroit, Texas

National League

FIP+ / DER+: Los Angeles, St. Louis, Florida, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego, San Francisco
DER+: New York Mets, Philadelphia, Montreal
FIP+: Atlanta, Houston, Pittsburgh
Neither: Arizona, Cincinnati, Colorado

The idea of the Phillies being a good fielding team must sound strange to most of us, who think of the Phillies as a collection of slow-footed sluggers, but curious about the Phils recent history I looked up the last decade at Studes site, Baseballgraphs.com, going back to the Phillies World Series team in 1993, to see how the Phillies stacked up graphically. What I found surprised me:

Year: Strength (Team Wins)
2004: DER+ (86)
2003: FIP+ / DER+ (86)
2002: FIP+ / DER+ (80)
2001: FIP+ / DER+ (86)
2000: DER+ (65)
1999: DER+ (77)
1998: Neither (75)
1997: Neither (68)
1996: Niether (67)
1995: DER+ (69)
1994: FIP+ / DER+ (76 proj.)
1993: FIP+* (97)
1992: DER+ (70)
1991: DER+ (78)

* The Phillies had the league average DER in 1993.

The Phillies have always had good defense, but rises in the quality of the team’s pitching coincide with rises in the Phillies wins. This is the sixth consecutive season that the Phillies have been an above-average defensive team. In fact, the Phillies have been a DER+ team 11 of the last 14 seasons. But playing good defense hasn't helped the Phillies at all. The Phillies have realized success when they have success on the mound.
How did the Phillies do during their World Series campaigns? Check it out:

1993: FIP+ / (DER)
1983: FIP+
1980: FIP+
1950: FIP+ / DER+
1915: FIP+ / DER+

Pitching, pitching, pitching … sort of makes you nervous about 2005, doesn’t it?

Baseball notes ... nice article from Peter Gammons about why the Randy Johnson deal fell through, plus read the bit about how old the San Francisco Giants have become thanks to free agency this year ... According to THT, the Indians are poised to sign Kevin Millwood. I've said this once, and I'll say this one thousand times, the team that signs Millwood is getting a good pitcher, or a potential ace: Millwood's FIP ERA (3.82) is a run lower than his "actual" ERA (4.85), he doesn't give up home runs (0.9 hr/9 innings), strikes guys out (8.0 strikeouts per 9 innings), and was the victim of bad defense from the Phils (.673 DER v. .703, a -.030 difference). If given a chance, he'll pitch well.

Odds ‘n Ends … nine Eagles made the Pro Bowl, the most of any team in the NFL. I think the biggest news was McNabb’s recognition for his superb 2004 campaign: ignorami like Rush Limbaugh derrided McNabb, questioning his leadership and his accuracy, unfairly comparing him to Kordell Stewart. McNabb is a leader and a terrific player. This year he finally had the supporting cast around him thanks to T.O. and gave everyone a glimpse of what he can do … All of this talk about the Eagles not being favorites to make the Super Bowl now that T.O. is injured is bunk. This team is much, much better than the 2003 team: thanks to Kearse and Trotter they can finally put pressure on the quarterback and stop the run. Defensively this team is better, and offensively they are basically the same team as last year, but I think that McNabb will take control of the game better. Plus it helps that the NFC is weaker than it has in years past. I think the Eagles will win in the divisional round, and win in the NFC title game, without T.O., we probably aren't strong enough to take on Pittsburgh, New England or Indy … I tried to get a discounted white T.O. jersey the day after Christmas, hoping that stores would discount now that he’s injured, but no such luck. I found a store that cut prices on NFL jerseys 25%, except on Eagles, Steelers, Patriots and Jets jerseys. I would say that 95% of the jerseys they had were Eagles, Steelers, Patriots and Jets jerseys, so it wasn’t much of a sale … speaking of which, guess what 98% of all of Pittsburgh gave one another for Christmas? A: Ben Roethlisberger jerseys. I was walking around a mall in the North Hills of Pittsburgh and I swear that half of the people I saw were walking around in black #7’s.

More tomorrow on who the best shortstop in the NL was.

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