Monday, May 31, 2010

More Ubaldo Jimenez Stats

It might even be too low of a goal at this point, but I had written before about what it would take for Ubaldo Jimenez to finish with 20+ Wins, .800+ W-L% and a sub-2.20 ERA.  After his complete game shutout today, which puts him at 10-1, 0.78 ERA, we need to re-evaluate.

Reaching 20 wins and having a winning percentage above .800 won't be the problem.  The tough part is the ERA because it can be destroyed by one bad outing whereas that one loss wno't hurt the winning percentage that much.  If we adjust the prior assessment a little (6.8 IP/start) and move it up to 7 (he's currently at 7.3), then he would finish with 234.1 IP.  In order to stay under 2.20, he could allow 57 ER the entire season. 

In 2010, he has allowed 7 ER through 11 starts.  So, he could allow 50 ER over his final 22 starts, which, if assuming 7 IP/start, would give him an ERA of 2.92 the rest of the way.  If he does better than that, he could finish with numbers not seen since Dwight Gooden in 1985.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Did Max Scherzer make history today?

When I go to a game, I'm always hoping to see something unusual.  Since there was a perfect game last night, I figured that was off the table, but there actually was something today at the A's-Tigers game today.  Max Scherzer, in his first start after being recalled from the minors, had a day to remember. 

He only made it 5.2 innings before being removed (probably for a high pitch count of 113 as well as putting runners on with 2 outs in the 6th) but he had 14 K.  In Roger Clemens' 20 K game at Tiger Stadium in 1996, he had 15 through 6 innings. 

Since 1920, there had only been 5 other instances of a pitcher having at least 12 K in less than 6 innings, and only 1 with 13 (Kevin Appier in 1994), so this was truly special.  Beyond that, Tigers pitching finished with a combined total of 17 strikeouts in 9 innings. 

That is only the 85th time that a team has recorded 17 strikeouts in a 9 inning game since 1920, compared to 166 no-hitters in the same time period.  The A's spread it around too, with only 1 hitter (Daric Barton) striking out 3 times.  Scherzer has a great arm, but even after today, he still has a an ERA of 6.42.  He's probably bought himself a decent amount of time to prove himself, so he is one to watch out for after today's performance.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is Jeremy Bonderman finally back?

His overall numbers don't look that great (2-2, 4.43), but Jeremy Bonderman has been great in May (1-1, 1.80).  Although he's been in the league since 2003, and has plenty of talent, he's only had one truly great month in his career: June 2006 (2-0, 1.77). 

His great pitching in May is a surprise, not only because of his miersable April (1-1, 6.97), but because he was coming back from multiple serious injuries over the past few years (blood clot, pain in right shoulder).

Among 60 AL pitchers with at least 20 IP in May, he has the 2nd best ERA (behind Justin Verlander).  Not only does he have a great ERA, he hasn't allowed a HR, and has 20 SO with only 5 BB.  It's been a long time, but he was emerging as a real force after the 2006 season, despite finishing with an ERA of 4.08. 

He pitched very well in the postseason that year, including a dominating performance against the Yankees in the ALDS.  He only pitched 80 innings over the past 2 years because of injuries and is only 27, so he could have a lot of productive years if he can stay healthy. 

He doesn't have a great track record for consistency, but this might finally be his year.  His teammate Joel Zumaya is also having his best season since 2006 after several injury-marred seasons.  It's only been a few starts, but he has a great chance to get his career back on track, and have his best season yet.

Update: Last night (May 26th), Bonderman was terrific against the Mariners (7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO), but the bullpen didn't hold it and the Tigers lost.  His May ERA is now 1.33, which is the best in the AL in May among all starters.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Carlos Marmol: 44 SO in 22.2 IP

14.50+ SO/9, 20+ IP (Since 1900)
1998 Billy Wagner (Astros) 14.55 SO/9, 60 IP
1999 Billy Wagner (Astros) 14.95, 14.95
1999 Armando Benitez (Mets) 14.77, 78
2003 Eric Gagne (Dodgers) 14.98, 82.1
2004 Brad Lidge (Astros) 14.93, 94.2
2010 Carlos Marmol (Cubs) 17.47, 22.2

Friday, May 21, 2010

Guest post: WAR the new answer in baseball

This is the first guest post on Baseball In-Depth, and it's by Graham Womack, who writes about baseball on his blog Baseball: Past and Present

Baseball-Reference posted a pair of blog entries this week, ranking the best position players and pitchers not in the Hall of Fame. The metric for ranking: WAR.

WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, seems to be the latest trendy stat in the baseball world, joining such past Stat Du Jours as OBP, WHIP and UZR. Every day, it seems, there’s another blog or Tweet on a player’s WAR data. It interests me, but most of it washes over my head, like I were a foreign exchange student attempting to mingle with locals. I don’t know if I could calculate the stat to save my life, a bad thing if I ever encounter baseball-loving street toughs.

I’m good with historical facts and analysis. I started reading baseball books in elementary school and can rattle off many facts, like who won the World Series in 1912 (the Boston Red Sox, after Fred Snodgrass of the New York Giants muffed an easy fly ball.) An old-timer recently asked me to pick the most durable pitcher all-time, and I’ve since wondered why I said Walter Johnson and blanked on Cy Young. I’d take either hurler over his choice, Nolan Ryan, but that’s beside the point.

I struggle more with obscure metrics. I made a list this afternoon that I titled, “Let’s learn some shit.” Among the things I’m clueless on:

  • Strat-o-Matic: Baseball lovers who grew up in the 1970s speak of this in hallowed terms, recalling times they played it with other kids. Based on their descriptions, I think it was a board game, though I have no idea what it looks like. The name seems entirely inappropriate for a children’s game, more fit for something that swingers bring to key parties.
  • VORP: I know this pertains to pitchers, and based on the name, it sounds related to velocity. Anyone else’s guess is as good as mine.
  • OPS: I know about slugging percentage and on-base percentage, and I’m guessing this is some combination of the two, but that’s where my knowledge ends. To be honest, I’m not 100 percent sure there even is a statistic called OPS, just as I wouldn’t lay money without checking Wikipedia that a family called the Hapsburgs ever ruled in Europe, let alone their country.
  • What a fungo bat looks like: Players talk about taking infield practice and having balls hit to them by fungo. Don’t know if I’ve seen one. The name makes it sound like a moldy stick stored in the dark, damp recesses of a bathroom.
Then there’s WAR.

It’s an interesting idea, ranking players by comparing their performance to anyone who could’ve taken their place. I see good and bad.

On the down side, looking at the metric for a career seems to favor players who lasted longer over more talented stars who flamed out earlier. Shoeless Joe Jackson, who got banned at 32 for helping throw the 1919 World Series is ranked 33rd on the Baseball-Reference list, behind Sal Bando, Buddy Bell and Jim Wynn. I don’t care about any metric: Shoeless Joe gets in my Hall of Fame well before those men.

Other parts of the list are more solid. Aside from active and recently retired players, Pete Rose was the top position player, followed by Lou Whitaker, Barry Larkin and Bobby Grich. The top eligible pitchers were Bert Blyleven, Luis Tiant, Rick Reuschel and Tommy John. I could make good arguments for enshrining each man.

The list featured other players I had overlooked, like Tim Raines or Graig Nettles, ranked ninth and eleventh among Cooperstown-eligible position players, respectively.

I still think the final decision on a player’s Hall of Fame merit needs to weigh as much with their performance as with what they meant to fans, writers, fellow players and baseball in general. I don’t know if that can be determined with any metric, however advanced. Still, if WAR highlights underrated players and at least gets them into the Cooperstown discussion, maybe it’s a good thing.

Graham Womack writes frequently about the Hall of Fame, as well as the history and current state of baseball for his blog, Baseball: Past and Present

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is Ubaldo Jimenez going to make history this season?

After another stellar outing tonight (7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER), Ubaldo Jimenez is 8-1 with a mind-boggling 0.99 ERA.  While it is still early in the season and one bad outing can destroy a great ERA, it looks like Ubaldo is in a zone that could last the entire season.  He could have the type of season where the question isn't whether he'll win the Cy Young Award but where it ranks among the greatest of all time:

20+ Wins, .800+ W-L%, 2.20 ERA or lower (since 1920)
1999 Pedro Martinez (Red Sox) 23-4, 2.07 ERA
1985 Dwight Gooden (Mets) 24-4, 1.53
1978 Ron Guidry (Yankees) 25-3, 1.74
1968 Denny McLain (Tigers) 31-6, 1.96
1963 Sandy Koufax (Dodgers), 25-5, 1.88
1943 Spud Chandler (Yankees) 20-4, 1.64
1931 Lefty Grove (A's) 31-4, 2.06
1924 Dazzy Vance (Dodgers) 28-6, 2.16

How achievable would this type of season be for Jimenez?  With an 8-1 record through May 21, 20 wins is clearly within reach and so is an .800 W-L%.  If he has 20 wins, he could lose 5 games and still get there.  It will be very difficult, but there's no reason to doubt his ability.  Because of his sensational ERA, that part is doable as well.

He has 63.1 IP through 9 starts, which is 7 IP/start.  The last two years he had 34 and 33 starts, so we'll assume he has 33 in 2010.  Even if he backs off a little, and averages only 6.8 IP/start the rest of the way, he will finish with 227.1 IP.  In order to finish with an ERA of 2.20 over 227.1 IP, he can allow 55 earned runs the entire season. 

So far, he's only given up 7, which means that he could allow 48 runs over his next 163.2 IP (an ERA of 2.64) and still finish at 2.20.  Obviously, it could go a million different ways (he could pitch complete games every week or only go 5 IP/start), but these numbers seem reasonable based on what he's done so far this year. 

Even with his great numbers, he couldn't afford too many subpar outings, but one bad start doesn't have to derail a historic season: In 1999, Pedro Martinez's ERA went as high as 2.51, after a bad start against the Marlins on July 18 where he gave up 7 ERA in 3.2 innings.  He finished strong, though, with a Ubaldo-like September, giving up only 4 ER in 41 IP, finishing with a 2.07 ERA.  Jimenez has had a good enough start where this type of season is a decent possibility, which is a huge accomplishment by itself.

Update: On May 26, he had another unbelieveable start (8 IP, 6 H, 0 ER), lowering his ERA to 0.88, and he continues to run away with the NL Cy Young Award.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Colby Lewis

20+ IP, 6.5 H/9 or lower, 9+ K/9 (Through May 18, 2010 - AL)
Daniel Bard (Red Sox) 21 IP, 5.57 H/9, 11.14 K/9
Colby Lewis (Rangers) 51.1 IP, 6.49 H/9, 9.47 K/9

Colby Lewis is 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA, but is dominating in many respects.  After a rocky ML career from 2002-2007, he left to pitch in Japan and quickly became a star.  He did so well that some ML teams began offering him contracts to come back, and the Rangers (the team that drafted him in the first round of the 1999 draft) were the winners.  It's rare for any ML player to resurrect their career in Japan, and especially so for a pitcher: (Tim Kurkjian)
"I'm so excited for this opportunity," Lewis said after finishing a workout. "Most guys go over there to finish up, but as my agent, Alan Nero, said, it's like hitting a grand slam, getting to come back here with a multiyear deal. Things like that don't happen very often."
Indeed. Very few players beyond Cecil Fielder have gone to Japan, come back and thrived in the big leagues. Since 1950, 48 pitchers have left America to pitch in Japan, and then came back to pitch in the major leagues. There have been few success stories. Bill Gullickson came back and won 61 games, including 20 for the Tigers in 1991. Elmer Dessens returned to win 46 games. Pedro Feliciano has had four decent years as a reliever for the Mets since coming back from Japan. Pat Mahomes went 9-0 for the Mets in his first year back in 1999.

Before he left for Japan, he averaged about 7 K/9, 10 H/9 and was12-15 with a 6.71 ERA.  He doesn't have the luxury of settling in as the 5th starter in a great rotation to ease back in.  As good as he's been, he's going to have to keep it up if the Rangers want to make the playoffs because their rotation is kind of thin.  He

Their best starter right now is C.J. Wilson, a converted reliever who hadn't made a start in the ML since 2005.  I guess Rich Harden is supposed to be their ace, but he's not pitching like it (2-1, 4.93 ERA).  The AL West might be one of those divisions that is so bad it only takes around 85 wins to win (although the Angels usually find a way to flip the switch at some point), but even 85 wins is going to require a good effort from Lewis the entire season. 

He's dropped off a bit in May, but his overall numbers are very encouraging and it will be interesting to see how does in his first full ML season since 2003 (when he finished 10-9 with a 7.30 ERA).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pitchers who are dominating

25+ IP, 1.00 WHIP or lower, 3+ SO/BB, 3.00 ERA or lower
Shaun Marcum (Blue Jays) 62 IP, .97 WHIP, 3.21 SO/BB, 2.61 ERA
Adam Wainwright (Cardinals) 58 IP, .98 WHIP, 3.27 SO/BB, 2.48 ERA
Tim Lincecum (Giants) 56.1 IP, .94 WHIP, 4.60 SO/BB, 1.76 ERA
Cliff Lee (Mariners) 30.1 IP, .89 WHIP, 25.00 SO/BB, 2.08 ERA
Evan Meek (Pirates) 25 IP, 1.00 WHIP, 4.33 SO/BB, 0.72 ERA

Update: Shaun Marcum had a solid outing today against the Twins in a win: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, lowering his ERA to 2.61 from 2.78.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Guest Post

I have written a guest post for the Mets Report about why I don't think the Washington Nationals will be able to stay in the NL East much longer (although they should finish much better than the last 4 years). 

I hope I'm wrong, but they seem to be relying too heavily on several pitchers that are having somewhat fluky seasons.  Today is another chance for them to prove me wrong though, with Livan Hernandez matching up with Ubaldo Jimenez in Colorado after their game was rained out yesterday.

Update: The Nationals lost their last 3 games to the Rockies, mainly because they didn't hit, scoring only 6 runs over those 3 games.  Livan Hernandez wasn't terrible on Saturday afternoon (6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER), but I do think he's finally settling into a more normal Livan-like season than the Cy Young contender he was for most of the season so far.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Underperforming pitchers

There are quite a few pitchers who are underperforming right now.  Most of the pitchers considered underperforming are perennial All-Stars and Cy Young contenders who are not measuring up to their track record and lofty expectations (Justin Verlander, Dan Haren, Jake Peavy, Jon Lester, Javier Vazquez, Johan Santana).  In other cases, the pitcher has an ERA that doesn't match their other numbers. 

6.50 SO/9, sub-1.20 WHIP, 3.50+ ERA, 5+ starts
Ricky Nolasco 3-2, 3.66 ERA
Mat Latos 2-3, 4.19 ERA

That's it.  There are 27 pitchers with 6.50 SO/9, sub-1.20 ERA and 5+ starts, but only 2 of them have an ERA over 3.50.  Both Nolasco and Matos have allowed a lot of HR (7 apiece), especially compared to other pitchers on the list with 0 like Ubaldo Jimenez and Francisco Liriano. 

Unfortunately, that problem doesn't always go away, but it can be overcome: as Curt Schilling got older, he improved his control, won more games, had a lower ERA, and still gave up a lot of home runs. 

Ricky Nolasco is seemingly on the verge of stardom, with his low WHIP and high SO/9 and SO/BB totals.  The good news is that he's had excellent SO and BB totals for a couple of years, so that will probably continue.  He's already dominant in many starts, and just needs to be more consistent.  At some point, I think he'll figure it out and elevate himself into the upper-echelon of ML pitchers.

Mat Latos has been pretty good lately, especially in his last start (8 IP, 0 ER, 9 SO, 0 BB vs. Astros).  His high ERA is mostly the result of a terrible start against the Marlins on April 26th (2.2 IP, 7 ER).  He's only 22, so consistency could be a problem at first for him too, but his ERA (4.19) should improve because his other numbers are too good for it to continue to be so high.

Update: Mat Latos tossed a 1 hit shutout today against the Giants, lowering his ERA to 3.32.  Ricky Nolasco starts again on Sunday.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Future Hall of Famers

Originally posted on August 12, 2009:

I'll probably have to make more changes, but here are some I would make today:
  • C.C. Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Troy Tulowitzki, Robinson Cano and Evan Longoria are On Track for Eventual Induction. 
  • Tim Lincecum, Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera and Chase Utley are now future First Balloters. 
  • Zack Greinke, Pablo Sandoval, Brian McCann, Andre Ethier, Justin Verlander and Adam Wainwright are On track to be in the discussion.
Surefire, first-ballot Hall of Famer if they retired today:

Trevor Hoffman
Mariano Rivera
Ken Griffey Jr.
Randy Johnson
John Smoltz
Derek Jeter
Pedro Martinez
Frank Thomas
Jim Thome

Recently retired (or seemingly retired), surefire first-ballot:
Tom Glavine
Greg Maddux
Jeff Kent

Surefire first-ballot, have not reached requisite 10 years service time in Majors (but are close):
Ichiro Suzuki
Albert Pujols

Could retire today, but likely not first-ballot, will make it eventually:
Omar Vizquel
Chipper Jones (will become First Ballot with a few more good years; signed with Braves through 2012)
Vladimir Guerrero

Future first-ballot, only injuries will derail them:
Joe Mauer
Jonathan Papelbon
Johan Santana
Ryan Howard
Hanley Ramirez

Could retire today, prompt debates (need a few more good years), could be a struggle:
Todd Helton
Jorge Posada

Recently retired, will prompt debates, not first ballot, but will eventually make it:
Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling

On track for eventual induction:
Miguel Cabrera
Chase Utley
Mark Teixeira
Prince Fielder
Roy Halladay
Carl Crawford
Roy Oswalt (hinted at early retirement)

On track to be in the discussion:
Justin Morneau
Matt Holliday
Dan Haren
Josh Beckett
David Wright

Once looked like a lock, still young enough to end up in discussion, but likely out:
Andruw Jones
Scott Rolen

Might have support, but probably not enough:
Jason Varitek

Need a few more years to have a shot:
Carlos Delgado

Will likely retire with monster numbers and not make it:
Adam Dunn

Great numbers, but overlooked during playing career, might not bode well for induction:
Bobby Abreu

Better chance than you might think, need to reach milestones, how badly do they want it?
Lance Berkman (33 years old, 1016 RBI, 16th all-time in OPS)
Johnny Damon (hinted at retirement before, but has 2382 hits and is only 35)
Mark Buehrle (high ERA, but only 30 with 133 wins, perfect game, no hitter, also hinted at early retirement)
Michael Young (late bloomer, 33, hitting machine: 1628 hits, 5 straight 200 hit seasons 2003-2007)
Joe Nathan (utter dominance could overcome late start, 34, 228 SV, 1.81 ERA as a closer; needs to maintain dominance and get 350 SV; tall order, but not impossible)

Hall of Fame talent, but inconsistencies and/or injuries are a major issue:
Jake Peavy
Francisco Rodriguez
Ryan Zimmerman
Jimmy Rollins
Grady Sizemore
C.C. Sabathia
Brandon Webb
Carlos Beltran
Justin Verlander
Curtis Granderson
Alfonso Soriano
Brad Lidge

Hall of Fame talent, good track record, still very early:
Tim Lincecum
Felix Hernandez
Ryan Braun
Dustin Pedroia

Seems to have Hall of Fame talent, still really young:
Justin Upton
Evan Longoria

Great talent, intriguing player, still an enigma:
Joba Chamberlain
Jose Reyes
Zack Greinke
Matt Cain
Aaron Hill
Matt Kemp

Had the talent, didn't find it until it was too late:
Chris Carpenter
Kevin Youkilis

Too late, will not make it, despite impressive numbers:
Andy Pettitte
Jim Edmonds
Luis Gonzalez
Jamie Moyer
Garret Anderson
Moises Alou
Kenny Lofton

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Record breaking year for pitchers in the NL?

With such pitchers as Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter the NL Cy Young Award race is shaping up to be sensational.  That doesn't even include all of the wild cards who have (possibly) underperformed or (probably) overperformed (Jaime Garcia, Barry Zito, Livan Hernandez, Brad Penny, Roy Oswalt, Matt Cain, Mike Pelfrey, Dan Haren, Johan Santana, Jonathan Sanchez). 

There could easily be several pitchers who will lose in the NL that would have otherwise won in the AL this year (sorry, Roy).

But, especially with the guys at the top (Jimenez, Lincecum, Halladay, Wainwright, Carpenter), there is a chance for a larger-than-normal number of 20-win seasons.  Since there were three 20-game winners in the NL in 2005 (Dontrelle Willis, Chris Carpenter, Brandon Webb), there has been only one 20 win season since in the NL (Webb in 2008). 

Beyond 20 wins, these are guys who are capable of getting over 200 strikeouts too.  If 3 of them of them actually do it (20 wins + 200 SO), it would be highly unusual for the NL.  Winning 20 games is very difficult, even for the best pitchers, but there might be something special about this crop of pitchers in 2010.   It's only the beginning of May, but the stars may be lining up for an incredible season of pitching in the NL (and, who knows, maybe they can shut down the AL in the All-Star game too):

NL (2 Pitchers): 20 W, 200 SO (Since 1971)
1971 Fergie Jenkins, Tom Seaver
1972 Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver
1976 Jerry Koosman, J.R. Richard
2001 Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling
2002 Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling

The last time there were 3 was 1970 (Bob Gibson, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry).  In 1969, there were 6 (!) (Gibson, Jenkins, Seaver, Marichal, Bill Singer, Larry Dierker).  There were also 6 in 1965 (Drysdale, Koufax, Gibson, Marichal, Tony Cloninger, Jim Maloney)
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