Thursday, August 23, 2007

More on the Pen

Another reliever with options got sent down instead of Jason Grilli. A lot of griping has gone on about the bullpen this year, and there was a large demand for adding to the bullpen at the trading deadline. Of course, if the best seven relievers were on the team, the problem would be slightly alleviated. I wanted to update the Win expectancy numbers from two weeks ago, and try to pick out the best bullpen.

Todd Jones 1.161
Bobby Seay 0.965
Joel Zumaya 0.662 (Before today)
Chad Durbin 0.438
Tim Byrdak 0.007
Yorman Bazardo -0.016
Eulogio De La Cruz -0.030
Aquilino Lopez -0.044
Jose Capellan -0.067
Macay McBride -0.127
Zach Miner -0.230
Fernando Rodney -0.276
Jason Grilli -0.620

I know I've turned this place into a Grilli bash fest, but one has to wonder what he has to do to leave the team. Granted, guys I've been trumpeting like Bazardo, Lopez, Capellan, and now Miner have also been bad. Fernando Rodney has moved up this list significantly since the last time. Bazardo is probably low because he's been placed into such low leverage situations so far.

One more thing i wanted to show was the leverage calculation that BP does. Basically, a player with a leverage of 1 is brought into average situations. Higher than one and a player is brought into situations with the game on the line, and lower than one and they are brought into mopup roles. This will give us an idea of how relievers are being used.

Todd Jones 1.83
Fernando Rodney 1.54
Joel Zumaya 1.34
Zach Miner 1.29
Macay McBride 1.28
Tim Byrdak 1.24
Chad Durbin 1.20
Jose Capellan 1.16
Jason Grilli 0.95
Bobby Seay 0.82
Aquilino Lopez 0.67
Yorman Bazardo 0.42
Eulogio De La Cruz 0.23

Grilli was much lower last year, but still should be down in the Bazardo DLC I'd really like to see more Bazardo, and Bobby Seay should be used much more often over Byrdak. The good news is that September will bring about all of the castoffs from Toledo. Hopefully guys like Capellan, Bazardo and De La Cruz get opportunities in tight spots, especially if Zumaya isn't 100%, which he appeared not to be today.

Other Thoughts

Ryan Raburn should be in the starting lineup, especially in days like today when Sean Casey is DH-ing. There's no excuse for leaving a hot bat out of a struggling lineup two straight days.

Part of me wonders if Gary Sheffield plays another game. If he retires with the shoulder problem, the battle over who gets the last two years of that contract could get interesting and heated.

It would be nice if Jeff Larish got a bit of an audition this September. If he could show he belongs in the bigs, the team could save some big money in the off-season going after a free agent.

This is the second straight season Curtis Granderson's bat has come to a screeching halt towards the end of August. The slump isn't long enough to be considered significant yet, but it's getting to the point where worry needs to kick in. He really is an important part of this lineup.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Porcello and Selig

It's been well documented how wise the Tigers have been the past few years in their draft selections early on. The money being spent on premium draft picks, on the surface, is just a mere fraction of what mediocre free agents are getting on the market. That point has been drilled to death for months. I want to take a different look at this draft.

Let's take two scenarios for Rick Porcello:

1.) Rick Porcello signs with a Major League baseball team, a team likely to protect its significant investment. In this scenario, let's assume it takes him 2-3 years to crack the big leagues and an additional year to become a star player. As a star pitcher, he could potentially be the face of the team and the face of baseball in the process, growing it's popularity and improving the overall talent level in the Major Leagues. The better the talent, the better the game...

2.) Rick Porcello doesn't sign with a Major League team. He goes to the University of North Carolina, playing under a college baseball coach (a profession known for its sacrificing young arms to win games). Porcello's arm tires his sophomore year and undergoes shoulder surgery, never returning to his talented form. The game loses a potential star, and he flames out in somebody's minor league system.

Which scenario is better for Major League Baseball? If Bud was truly looking out for the best interests of the game, he would prefer scenario 1, correct?

It's time to get over this notion that Bud Selig represents the game's best interests. It simply isn't true, and never was. He is the owner's representative, and simply represents the owners' best interest. Major League Baseball's best interests are no higher on his priority list than Scott Boras' or Donald Fehr's.

On another note, I'll be missing the first part of tonight's game, marking this the second time I've missed a star prospect's debut in the past week. Also, the team is on a five game losing streak when I don't catch the game, and a five game winning streak when I do. Hopefully that reverses itself tonight.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Bullpen

Especially of late, the 2007 season has been a slight disappointment after the magical 2006 affair. While the offense has been at times dominant, the pitching has taken a turn for the worse. Given that the pitching is considered the young core of the team, this has been a tremendous disappointment in a lot of ways.

The bullpen, in particular, has taken a big step back. In order to take a look at this, I'm going to look at some of the Win Expectancy numbers from the guys at Baseball Prospectus.

Before going into this, I want to try my best to explain the concepts of "above average" and "above replacement. We'll take a look at four players and calculate their hits above average and hits above replacement.

Player A 15 PA, 5 hits
Player B 18 PA, 4 hits
Player C 11 PA, 7 hits
Player D 20 PA, 1 hit

To calculate what is average, we should calculate the average amount of hits per plate appearance for all of the players.

Player A 0.3333 H/PA
Player B 0.2222 H/PA
Player C 0.6364 H/PA
Player D 0.0500 H/PA
Average 0.2656 H/PA
Rep Level 0.2000 H/PA

Replacement level is defined as a player that can be found on the waiver wire. I really just plucked that number out of nowhere to go through these calculations. Now we want to find out how many hits/plate appearance above average and multiply by plate appearances to find hits above average and replacement.

Player A 0.0677 H/PA above Average (1.016 HAA)
0.1333 H/PA above Replacement (2.000 HAR)
Player B -0.0434 H/PA above Average (-0.782 HAA)
0.0222 H/PA above Replacement (0.400 HAR)
Player C 0.3608 H/PA above Average (3.969 HAA)
0.4364 H/PA above Replacement (4.800 HAR)
Player D -0.2156 H/PA above Average (-4.312 HAA)
-0.1500 H/PA above Replacement(-3.000 HAR)

I really wanted to go through that, because I've always found that people shy away from numbers like this and to maybe show some trends. Average players with lots of playing time can rack up numbers over replacement level, while good player without much playing time will have a better time getting above average compared to replacement.

Now that we have that out of the way, I wanted to take a peak at the Win Expectancy of our bullpen. Win expectancy was created by Clay Davenport at Baseball Prospectus, and essentially takes the guessing out of inherited runner numbers. For a full explanation, go here. The basic concept is that he used historical data for situations and how often teams win based on the score and how many runners are on base, and made adjustments for team strength. The totals are compared to average and replacement level, and given an adjustment for who the players face in the lineup (For example, a player would get more credit for retiring Sheffield/Magglio/Guillen than one who takes care of Casey/Monroe/Inge). Players who come into mop up situations will likely linger around zero, while pitchers who close out the game or come into close situations

Oh yeah, we were going to look at the Tigers bullpen. I guess we should do that. Here are the 2007 lineup adjusted numbers for Win Expectation above an average reliever.

Bobby Seay 0.995
Todd Jones 0.947
Joel Zumaya 0.620
Chad Durbin 0.446
Tim Byrdak 0.093
Aquilino Lopez -0.019
Eulogio Delacruz -0.031
Jose Capellan -0.064
Yorman Bazardo -0.066
Macay McBride -0.111
Zach Miner -0.151
Wil Ledezma -0.322
Jose Mesa -0.503
Jason Grilli -0.513
Fernando Rodney -0.539

What does this tell us? Todd Jones has done well closing out games. He gives up runs in bunches, which means that the last couple runs he gives up in an appearance probably don't decrease the team's shot at losing much. Bobby Seay has been used properly this year, facing primarily lefties. We need Zumaya back. I wouldn't think Durbin would rate this high. I'm going to look into seeing if his starting innings are skewing the analysis. The bullpen overall has been bad. Jason Grilli has been as bad as everybody this side of Jim Leyland thinks, and the sub-100% Fernando Rodney was terrible. Luckily, he seems to be better now.

For comparison, here's a look at our 2006 numbers.

Joel Zumaya 3.978
Fernando Rodney 1.149
Todd Jones 0.791
Jamie Walker 0.371
Roman Colon 0.095
Jordan Tata 0.079
Chad Durbin 0.037
Bobby Seay -0.002
Zach Miner -0.060
Colby Lewis -0.068
Wil Ledezma -0.075
Chris Spurling -0.102
Andrew Miller -0.116
Mike Maroth -0.150
Kenny Rogers -0.288
Jason Grilli -0.393

Look who was our worst reliever last year... As with Durbin this year, I'm not sure Maroth and Rogers are rated fairly. If I remember correctly, Rogers was used in the last game of the season out of desperation and didn't pitch too well. One could make a case that Zumaya's year last year was the best for a Tigers reliever in the franchise's history. Considering he'd be going up against 1984 Willie, that's saying something. Overall, the three guys counted on to keep leads did the job. Ledezma and Grilli on the surface pitched better, but clearly struggled with inherited runners and possibly benefited a bit from Zumaya cleaning up their mess.

Overall, the bullpen has been much worse this year. As shown above, the notion that Jason Grilli has been overused is probably correct.

I've had Internet issues of late, and will try to get those straightened out so I can update this more often. Soon, I'll take a further look at another tool Davenport has in these rankings and go through and try to get to the bottom of the options/service time mystery.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Michael Witte is Full of Crap

This article:

is getting a lot of buzz today. A quick Google search of Witte and Bonds will show many blogs and writers saying something along the lines of "Kudos to Michael Witte for standing up to a cheater," or "I don't really understand, but this guy seems to be an expert in mechanics."

As a mechanical engineer with a little bit of a biomechanics background, I'm going to let everybody in on a little secret: He's not.

In the middle of the article, Witte writes about six different ways in which the elbow armor that Barry Bonds wears gives him a mechanical advantage in his swing. Each of them has their own flaws, but each blatantly false.

1) The apparatus is hinged at the elbow. It is a literal "hitting machine" that allows Bonds to release his front arm on the same plane during every swing. It largely accounts for the seemingly magical consistency of every Bonds stroke.

I'm trying to get my mind around this one. If I'm comprehending this correctly, Witte is claiming that this device somehow controls Bonds' leading elbow, creating a perfect swing every time. As Jerry Seinfeld would say. "That, my friends, is one magic shield." The swing plane that Bonds will swing through is not only dependent on the relative motion of forearm to the upper arm, but also to the position and orientation of his lower body, torso, and upper arm. In order for this apparatus to create a consistent swing plane, it would need to have some sort of position sensors within it to adjust and correct itself or be connected to the ground.

2) The apparatus locks at the elbow when the lead arm is fully elongated because of a small flap at the top of the bottom section that fits into a groove in the bottom of the top section. The locked arm forms a rigid front arm fulcrum that allows extraordinary, maximally efficient explosion of the levers of Bonds' wrists. Bonds hands are quicker than those of average hitters because of his mechanical "assistant."

I was unaware that an arm can elongate. Perhaps Bonds is superhuman after all!! Witte proceeds to describe the forearm as a fulcrum, which is defined as the fixed point of a lever. If the forearm was fixed during a baseball swing, he had better be laying down a bunt. The forearm, ideally should be moving pretty quickly at the time of impact.

3) When Bonds swings, the weight of the apparatus helps to seal his inner upper arm to his torso at impact. Thus "connected," he automatically hits the ball with the weight of his entire body - not just his arms - as average hitters ("extending") tend to do.

Wow. Just wow. I'd love to see the analysis he did to come up with this conclusion. I'm seriously at a loss for words with this one. There is so much more going in to how much "weight" is being put into the ball (I think he means how much force Bonds is exerting on the ball).

4) Bonds has performed less well in Home Run Derbies than one might expect because he has no excuse to wear a "protector" facing a batting practice pitcher. As he tires, his front arm elbow tends to lift and he swings under the ball, producing towering pop flies or topspin liners that stay in the park. When the apparatus is worn, its weight keeps his elbow down and he drives the ball with backspin.

This is pure speculation. I'm sure an athlete as skilled as Bonds can make adjustments like this. Besides, the weight of protective equipment is likely to be fairly insignificant.

5) Bonds enjoys quicker access to the inside pitch than average hitters because his "assistant" - counter-intuitively - allows him to turn more rapidly. Everyone understands that skaters accelerate their spins by pulling their arms into their torsos, closer to their axes of rotation. When Bonds is confronted with an inside pitch, he spins like a skater because his upper front arm is "assistant"-sealed tightly against the side of his chest.

This phenomena, while it applies to figure skating (decreasing the rotational inertia to increase angular velocity by conservation of angular momentum), doesn't apply in the case of a linear collision, which is what is happening when the bat is striking the ball. In a linear collision, mass*velocity is conserved. If a batter were to bring their arms in instead of extending, that velocity (equal to angular velocity times the distance from the rotational axis) is much much lower and would be ultimately worse for the batter who is trying to get as much linear velocity at the point of impact as possible.

6) At impact, Bonds has additional mass (the weight of his "assistant") not available to the average hitter. The combined weight of "assistant" and bat is probably equal to the weight of the lumber wielded by Babe Ruth but with more manageable weight distribution.

He forgets to mention that it is also more mass that needs to be moved by the muscles. This also completely neglects the fact that the weight of the armor is pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things.

It is worrisome that people are willing to believe anything they read. My advice to anybody out there is to take it upon yourselves to learn issues, so that you don't get duped like so many did my Mr. Witte. Whether it is the issue of an artist describing the mechanics of a baseball swing or a bitter politician delving into atmospheric sciences. Be weary and skeptical of any conclusions. If you don't understand something, it doesn't necessarily mean the source is credible.