Friday, February 11, 2005
* Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
As I said, I like PMR and I think its interesting by something about it bothers me: the third-best PMR team last year, according to Dave, were the Boston Red Sox. The idea of the Red Sox, a team that finished dead last in Zone Rating and generally in the bottom ten of every major defensive statistic in baseball, as the third-best fielding team in baseball struck me as a fairly in fly in the ointment. That said, I’m willing to say that I think Dave’s work is interesting and he might be correct. I’ve always pledged to keep an open-mind about these things. Dave’s conclusion that the Cardinals were the top fielding team in the MLB in 2004 doesn’t strike me as being wrong, so I think there is definate merit to his work.
Dave built on his work recently by ranking players in different positions by their contribution to team defense. Here how some of the Phillies players shaped up:
Bobby Abreu ranked as one of the worst rightfielders in the MLB, seventh from the bottom in a class of about fifty. (Click here for RF.) Abreu had 311 putouts in 2004, but should have had 329.7 according to Dave, which means his .073 contribution to the team DER should have been .078 (-.0044).
Amongst third basemen David Bell was pretty middle of the pack: 377 putouts out of a projected 355.7, so Bell exceeded his projected DER contribution by .0056 (.099 DER actual, projected: .093).
Leftfielders: Pat Burrell ranked as one of the worst defensive outfielders in 2004 ...
Actual Putouts / Projected: 216 / 231.2
Actual DER / Projected DER: .066 / .071 (-.0047)
Centerfielders: Kenny Lofton and Marlon Byrd, the Phillies new and former centerfielders ranked in the middle:
Actual Putouts / Projected
Lofton: 162 / 168.3
Byrd: 196 / 205
Actual DER / Projected / Difference
Lofton: .098 / .102 / -.0038
Byrd: .086 / .090 / -.0040
For those who wanted the Phillies to pursue the Dodgers Steve Finley: he ranked lower than Byrd or Lofton, -.0044 …
Surprisingly, Jim Thome was rated as average for first basemen, finishing in the middle of the pack :
Actual Putouts / Projected: 239 / 230.9
Actual DER / Projected DER: .067 / .065 (.0023)
Second basemen: now things really get interesting … Dave ranks Chase Utley number one amongst second basemen in 2004. Placido Polanco is just a few places behind in seventh:
Actual Putouts / Projected
Polanco: 345 / 344.4
Utley: 150 / 141.3
Actual DER / Projected / Difference
Polanco: .118 / .118 / (.0002)
Utley: .127 / .120 / (.0074)
I'll discuss this in conjunction with MLB shortstops: Jimmy Rollins ranked eighth in a rather large group:
Putouts / Projected: 473 / 476.6
DER / Projected: .113 / .114 / (-.0009)
That's better than Jack Wilson (-.0057), Derek Jeter (-.0068) or Edgar Renteria (-.0065).
Hard to argue that the Phillies don't have one of the best middle infields in baseball. I'm surprised to see Utley so highly rated, though I'd note that Zone Rating actually gives him the edge over Polanco at 2B in 2004 as well. I suspect Utley's rating is so high because he saw about half as many innings of work as did Polanco, but it suggests that he'll be one of the top defensive second basemen in 2005, which means that the Phillies will truly have a tremendous infield for the coming season, a good sign for Phillies pitchers (as Tom G. at Balls, Sticks 'n Stuff noted).
I admit my skepticism is waning on PMR: a lot of his data seems very believable and it closely tracks things I've seen elsewhere. For example, I'd dismiss his data on Utley if it weren't for the fact that ZR also ranks him well. I think Dave's work is good and definately worth continuing to follow.
Stay tuned: I'm sure we'll see more from Dave over the coming days.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Dave Pinto of Baseball Musings recently worked out a new way of looking at team defense by introducing “Probabilistic Model of Range” (PMR), a process by which he broke down balls put into play and their expected outcomes. The expected outcomes flow from six factors: 1) direction of the hit, 2) type of hit (bunt, flyball, etc), 3) how hard the ball was hit, 4) the park, 5) the pitcher, and 6) the batter. The idea Dave came up with is to compare the expected outcomes with the probable outcomes, and rank the teams based on how they did. If a team did better than expected, the better defense they have.
The results and his whole post are here, but I’ll share a little of the results: the five teams that beat their expected DERs were the Cardinals (.0032 better), the Red Sox (.0027 better), the Cubs (.0031 better), and the White Sox (.0019 better). The Phillies were fifth, .0003 above their expected DER. Interestingly, the worst teams were the Yankees (.0176 behind), the Tigers (.0181), the Royals (.0208 behind) and the Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles, California, whatever (.0209 behind).
I like Dave’s work, and I like his methodology, but any result that comes back and tells me that the Boston Red Sox were the third-best defensive unit in baseball last year makes me raise my eyebrows. I see the data, I don’t dislike the method it was created by, but I simply don’t think it’s true. My eyes and the numbers tell me that it is wrong:
I’ll start with the weakest part of my argument: I watched a number of Red Sox games in 2004 and I can’t believe that was the third-best defensive team in baseball. Even after the July deals which sent Nomar to Chicago, I don’t think this was a great defensive team. They played good defense, solid defense, but any team with Manny Ramirez in the field can’t be called “strong” defensively. They missed balls, dropped flys, displayed hits and sometimes played defense like my little league team did. Second best defensive team?
I’ll buttress my argument with some numbers. Here are the MLB ranks on the major team defense stats for the Red Sox:
Fielding Percentage: .981, 23rd in MLB
Range Factor: 37.23, 17th in MLB
Zone Rating: .829, 30th in MLB
Errors committed: 118, 25th in MLB
Not one finish in the top half and, aside from range factor, the Red Sox ranked in the bottom ten on all of these stats. Zone Rating, which is the one I put the most faith in, ranked them dead last. Great defensive team? I simply don’t believe it.
That said, I can’t disagree with a lot of Dave’s conclusions: he ranks teams high that I’d rate high. Cardinals are the best defensive team in baseball? Why not? They were #2 in MLB ZR. The Dodgers and Phillies were Nos. 7 & 5 on Dave’s list and they committed the fewest errors in 2004. The Dodgers actually had the highest ZR in the MLB.
I could be wrong. The Red Sox could just be an anomaly, a glitch. I find Dave’s work interesting, but I’m skeptical. That said, he’s given us a valuable resource. Check out his work when you get a chance.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
After OD’ing on Fox’s Super Bowl coverage on Sunday I settled in to watch the game with my wife. After mulling over what I saw, here are my thoughts…
-I hate to be one of those bloggers who begins posts by saying: “As I predicted…” But … As I predicted the game was won … well, lost … on the Eagles inability to take the fight to the Pats front seven. The Pats got pressure and stuffed the running game all night long, forcing McNabb to air it out against a decent secondary that made a few big plays.
-What went right for the Eagles? Well, the defense played very well. They were aggressive, fast and kept the Patriots offensive unit (for the most part) bottled up. Deion Branch had a heck of a game, but the Eagles did do a good job on the rest of the Pats wideouts. Aside from Branch (who was usually in the slot covered by the third or fourth corner), Brady couldn’t get much going in the game. The Eagles also held Corey Dillon in check. Remember the Eagles inability to can the running game of the opposition? They held one of the best backs in the NFL to under 100 yards. Good job.
-T.O. went right. T.O. went very right. I was stunned to see him play and play as well as he did: 9 catches, 122 yards ain’t bad. He seemed to shake off his ankle injury and play great football. If the Eagles had won, T.O. would have been the MVP.
-I know everyone wants to blame McNabb for the Eagles loss, but give the guy a break: he threw 51 passes and had pressure all game long. Sure he made some bad throws (his first two picks were momentum killers), but he did so without any sort of a running game to keep the Pats honest. I think the Eagles lost for two reasons:
1. Unimaginative playcalling. The Eagles did some fun stuff in the post-season to spread the ball: tosses to Westbrook crossing behind the backfield, etc. There was nothing imaginative about the game called by the Eagles on Sunday. I would have expected a little more misdirection to keep the Pats on their heels and cautious.
2. No running game. Again, I hate to be an “As I predicted…” blogger, but as I predicted this was the game were the Eagles desperately needed Correll Buckhalter. I love Westbrook, but he can carry only 50-60% of the load in the backfield. You need someone back there splitting duties with him. I like Dorsey Levens, but I don’t think he’s the long-term answer here. The Eagles needed a 1B runner to keep the Pats honest. If they had been able to establish a running game they could have kept the ball a little longer and the Eagles D wouldn’t have gotten ground down in the fourth quarter as it did.
Actully, there is three things…
3. What in the heck was up with the Eagles inability to run a two-minute drill. Was this coaching? Did the Eagles not have an adequate 2-minute plan? Or was this McNabb’s fault: did he have a lack of urgency on the field? I’m not sure where the blame lies, but they needed to be faster than they were.
So what does this mean? First off, this is just he beginning for the Eagles. This team will be good for a long, long time: they have lots of cap room, lots of talent and no competition. Who can challenge them? Green Bay and St. Louis are declining teams. Minnesota? Not with Coach Collapse holding the clipboard. They’ll always lack the mental toughness needed. Seattle is too soft. Tampa is a lost cause and Carolina needs to rebound from this season. As for the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys, the less said the better. Those teams have sacrificial lambs written all over them. Aside from the Falcons, the Eagles have no peer in the NFC. This could be another 13-3 campaign in 2005 for the Birds.
Second, the city of Philadelphia shouldn’t worry: sure, the Phillies might finish fourth in 2005 and there is no hockey and the Sixers might be caught in Allen Iverson limbo forever, but the Eagles will be an elite team well into the 2005 and 2006 campaigns. Let’s just get a B-back for Westbrook and prepare for the ’05 season.
Tomorrow: back to baseball. Our old friend.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Try back tomorrow....
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Alright, I got my chips & salsa, my beer and my snacks. I hung my Eagles banner on the window of my apartment too. This game is going to be sweet!
Super Bowl Sunday: Best day of the year!