(This is the second installment of what I hope will be an ongoing discussion between us here at the Sac Bunt and new Padres owner to-be Jeff Moorad. Maybe one day, he’ll talk back to us.)
It’s no secret that you’re acquiring a Padres team that has seen better days. They’re coming off a 99-loss season with a repeat looking likely. Your predecessor, John Moores, is going through a very public divorce that seems to have forced the team down to a $40 million payroll, and that payroll has already made casualties of Trevor Hoffman and Khalil Greene (although anyone crying about Khalil should not be listened to), with Jake Peavy looking like he’s next in line.
And to top it all off, there’s not a whole lot to look forward to, with our minor league system getting lukewarm reviews. Keith Law recently ranked our team 19th in the league, while John Sickles and Baseball Prospectus have both assessed the Padres as having depth but without much impact talent coming up.
The current administration has already started taking steps towards making it up to the fans. Among the perks us fans can look forward to this season at the Pet are seven 2-for-1 days, which is two tickets for the price of one, and 5-for-$5 at every home game, a deal that comes with a dog, a soda, peanuts, popcorn, and a cookie. If I recall correctly, all of the 2-for-1 days last season were day games during the week, so I guess that’s nice, but I’ll definitely be looking into the 5-for-$5 deal. And I do hope that something’s done to ensure that these deals go better than last year’s dollar days.
But there is something even better that you, Mr. Moorad, can do to immediately get us fans behind you: bring back the brown.
Before I get ahead of myself, I pose this question to you: what do the Padres have in common with the Brewers, the Red Sox, and the Rays? Clearly, it’s not a playoff berth in 2008, it’s the use of dark blue as a primary color. The Brewers even use gold as a secondary color, one that looks just a bit like the Padres sand, and they’ve used it since the mid-90s. So the Padres fans not only have to deal with futility on the field and a lack of excitement in the minor leagues, but they don’t even have a look to really call their own.
Bringing back the brown, a color that this team used until the early 90s, gives this team an identity. In all of the big three sports, only the Cleveland football team wears brown. Is it because it’s ugly? No. Probably. But what’s ugly? Personally, I think the current Padres look is embarrassing in its blandness and after five years of it, I’m ready to move on. The Padres have a history of brown, having worn it for their first 20 years, and now is the time to come back to it. I’ll even make a deal with you: the mustard, which was as much a part of those jerseys as the brown, doesn’t have to come with it. Keep the sand. In fact, keep the sand jerseys. I like them, although we need to lose the bowtie script. Just bring back the brown.
The Friar was never meant to wear blue.
Sullivan is foaming at the mouth. An entire year to write articles filled to the brim with absolutely nothing.
In case anyone missed the comments section from this post, Sac Bunt reader Old_Padre had some concerns about my use of the tRA statistic in forming my opinion on a Jake Peavy trade. Here’s what he said:
How much of a predictor of future performance is a stat if it has swung back and forth by at least 20% over the last four seasons?
I responded that what I like about tRA is the way it breaks down a pitcher’s results into components for which we can more accurately apply credit or blame. Unfortunately I was not able to add much more to my answer because I am not a statistic guru, I merely enjoy sharing what I have learned with others who might not have the time, interest, or whatever other reason to follow sabermetrics news.
I suggested Old_Padre get in contact with Graham MacAree, the main developer behind tRA for a better answer to his questions. Awesomely, Old_Padre did just that, and thanks to both gentlemen I learned a lot in the process. I would like to re-post their e-mail conversation, in full, so hopefully more readers can benefit from Old_Padre’s diligence.
I was recently introduced to tRA through a blog post elsewhere written about Jake Peavy. I got into a bit of a conversation with they blogger who suggested I pass my question on to you.
His implied belief about tRA is that because it analyzes all components of the batter/pitcher interaction is that it is more useful as a predictor of future performance. The question I asked in the comments is “How much of a predictor of future performance is a stat if it has swung back and forth by at least 20% over the last four seasons?”
Now, as I read your primer, I don’t know that you would make the assertion that it’s a more accurate predictor of future performance just because it paints a more accurate picture of past results. However, if you DO feel that’s the case, could you help me understand why I saw such significant variance (I say that without having enough time or competence to truly do regression analysis or to look at deviation numbers) in the year-to-year tRA numbers for Peavy and the other guys I listed in the comments.
I’ll admit I’m not that bright (I’m a Padres fan, how smart could I be???) and it’s been far more years since I used SPSS than it was months that I used the damn thing, so my statistical prowess is not, ahem, remarkable. However, I would love to try to understand better.
tRA obviously isn’t a perfect future performance indicator – but nothing that we have is a perfect performance indicator. Every stat suffers from large swings year-to-year – if you look at the variation in ERA and compare it to tRA’s, you’ll find that the former’s is much higher. In fact, tRA is something like 2.5x as stable year to year as ERA, and also beats FIP (the most common ‘advanced’) pitching stat by a fairly healthy margin. So although it’s prone to large variations, it’s still more predictive than looking at other stats. Baseball is just too variable for any statistic to remain static.
I hope that clears things up.
Thanks, Graham. I appreciate that you replied SO quickly!
I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I thought there was no value, or that because it has some variance, it isn’t predictive at all. I guess my beef is more with the tack taken by the blogger… look, his tRA ballooned last year, quick trade him before anyone notices.
It may be of some interest to you that one of the alternate names for tRA in development was ‘the Jake Peavy is amazing stat’.
Personally, I think that a ballooning tRA is a large red flag, but it’s certainly not the only thing that should be considered.
Definitely fun to hear our favorite Alabaman was on Graham’s mind when working on tRA. Thanks again to Old_Padre for contributing such great dialogue, and to Graham MacAree for his insight.
I would also like to clarify that I don’t base my opinion that the team should make the right deal for Jake based solely on his 2008 tRA. In fact, that reason would probably land at #4 or #5 on my list. I put Jake’s violent, all effort delivery, age combined with injury risk, the large percentage of team payroll his contract covers, and the holes on the roster that need filling before the tRA thing. Sorry if that wasn’t clear in my original post.
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The internet’s least favorite player is officially a San Diego Padre.
It appears that David Eckstein will become the Padres fourth Opening Day second baseman since the departure of Mark Loretta, following in the depressing footsteps of Josh Barfield, Marcus Giles, and Tad Iguchi.
Eckstein’s spent the better part of the past eight seasons as a shortstop, although he moved to second after being acquired by Moorad’s old team in August. Eckstein’s defense at short has been steadily deteriorating and, according to Tangotiger’s fan scouting reports, his arm strength has been getting worse, bottoming out at 0 this year. Luckily for us, second base is closer to first than shortstop.
Offensively, Eckstein hasn’t done much. He posted a career high wOBA of .335 with the Cardinals in 2005. Never in his career has he posted a slugging percentage over .400 but he’s had some good on-base percentages. Over the past three seasons, his OBP has been .350, which is something the team hasn’t gotten from the middle infield since 2004.
For 2009, the projections for Eckstein look like:
Not good, but that OBP might be a silver lining. And he’ll be back making under $1 million, so we’ve got that going for us.
Something else interesting to come out of this is the appearance of solidity Eckstein gives in the 4 hole. Towers has spent the past couple of months collecting second baseman. Eckstein is the latest name on a list that includes Luis Rodriguez, Travis Denker, Chris Burke, Edgar Gonzalez, and Matt Antonelli. With Eckstein taking over at second, Rodriguez would seem to be the team’s shortstop going into the new season, and Antonelli will likely start the year in Portland. From there, Burke and Gonzalez are utility guys who can play all over the infield and in the outfield, with Burke owning 500 innings experience in centerfield. This leaves Denker, who projects to be a monster, left needing a big Spring Training.
Jake Peavy has a secret buried deep within his 2008 performance. The secret isn’t easy to see, although that has to be true because it’s what defines a secret.
Sabermetricians are pretty good at finding this type of hidden knowledge. One method of finding truth and escaping prejudices in a player’s pitching ability is to use a statistic called tRA. This metric breaks the result of every plate appearance down to a level that allows us to accurately assign credit or blame to the pitcher.
Some of these plate appearance results tRA takes into account are line drives, fly balls, pop-ups, home runs, strikeouts, and walks. Again, the purpose here is to value as accurately as possible the influence on run prevention that pitchers have direct control over. tRA is park and league neutral, and set to the same Runs per 9 innings scale as ERA, a statistic that does poor job predicting future success compared to tRA.
This is a similar process to the FIP stat, though tRA incorporates more detail. Here is more information on tRA, along with some background from Dave Cameron about why ERA isn’t as great as you might think.
Ok, I promised a Jake Peavy secret, and you want one ASAP, am I right? Here you go:
|Jake Peavy’s tRA|
See that there? See the number that jumps out a little bit? Maybe a little jumping? Holy crap. I flipped a lid when I saw that 2008 number.
Seriously, don’t tell anyone. Call me paranoid and delusional, (ok, I’ll call myself paranoid and delusional) but it isn’t an accident this wasn’t posted until after the deals with Atlanta and Chicago fell through.
Though he probably employs more complex metrics than tRA, this information clearly corroborates why Sandy Alderson has held tight to his position that trading Jake is first and foremost a baseball move.
Of course Peavy’s unsightly tRA isn’t the only reason to make the trade. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, his age, the many needs within the organization, a poor chance the team will compete next year, and the injury risk of pitchers are all motivating factors.
When you couple this reasoning with the the Padres passing on trade opportunities with two teams, and at least one passable offer from the Braves, it makes me think that someone making the case that trading Jake is primarily about lowering payroll has a lot more explaining to do.
An ERA that seems likely an abberation, and the other reasons mentioned above mean that now is a good time to make the right deal for Jake Peavy. Unfortunately, neither the Cubs nor the Braves seem prepared to offer value the Padres prefer. Hopefully Jake’s hidden slump doesn’t manifest itself in a higher ERA come July next season.
But now that dream has gone from me.
I had the pleasure of attending Trevor Hoffman’s likely last appearance as a Padre, and what might be the final Trevor Time in San Diego. It was September 27th, 2008, an otherwise not too noteworthy Saturday night game against Pittsburgh.
Since the game wasn’t the last of the year, there wasn’t much mystique in the air watching these the two last place clubs. Luckily, I was armed with the knowledge that Trevor’s contract was nearly expired, and based on 160 previous case studies I knew a win and save opportunity for the Padres the next day was hardly a given.
So I grabbed (politely asked for, sorry honey) the camera my girlfriend awesomely keeps in her purse for those all important bar bathroom mirror photos with the girls, and turned it on Trevor. As it turned out, I was recording history.
The significance of the moment, coupled with my inkling that not many people really knew what could be happening, shot a bittersweet feeling through my veins.
I don’t think I’ll forget that night, though it didn’t hurt that the line for beer in the right field bleacher was excruciatingly long.
Thanks Trevor, for being the great player, and the great guy that you are. I’m gonna miss you.
note: If you’re reading this from a feed, click through to the article to see the video.
Please retain Alderson and Co. and let them do what they do.
(btw, Moorad is in the process of becoming the new owner of the san diego padres)