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UZR in the UT

March 31st, 2010 by

Photo by Dirk Hansen

I didn’t see this one coming.

It’s true, the Padre blogosphere likes to rag on the San Diego Union Tribune’s baseball coverage from time to time. I’ll admit, it can be fun to snicker from the back of the room while the mainstream media, who once derided new technologies like blogs and analytical approaches to evaluating baseball.

That said, critics from traditional news outlets do make some good points. One of them is that sitting in the back of the room shooting spit wads doesn’t contribute much to a conversation.

The Union Tribune appears to be coming around in its coverage using these new tools, though this process took a step backward when the most forward thinking of the bunch, Tom Krasovic, was let go.

This story begins in mid January, after the Padres traded Kevin Kouzmanoff to the A’s for Aaron Cunningham and Scott Hairston. Due to Kouz’s excellent fielding percentage last year, members of the traditional San Diego media (and others) called for him to be awarded a gold glove. The UT’s Tim Sullivan described his defense as “near flawless”. Here was my response, via Twitter (You do follow The Sac Bunt, right?):

@sdutSullivan Thinking Kouzmanoff is a defensive whiz because of fielding percentage suggests range isn’t important.

Fielding percentage by itself is a bad way to measure fielding. It doesn’t consider range, an important aspect of a player’s ability to turn his share of batted balls into outs.

Much to his credit, Mr. Sullivan made a note of this information in a subsequent article:

Though fielding percentage is often a misleading metric, in that it makes no allowances for the relative range of different players, Headley’s .907 rate was the lowest among big league third baseman who started at least 25 games last season. The frequency of Headley’s errors — he made five of them among 54 total chances — occurred at nearly six times Kouzmanoff’s clip.

Although he isn’t completely off the hot seat considering his “results” from Headley’s 54 total chances aren’t worth the pixels they’re read on. But I digress.

Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, is the most reliable freely available defensive metric. Unlike fielding percentage, it does consider range. UZR rates Kevin Kouzmanoff average to above average defensively, over the necessary sample size of a multiple seasons.

My attempt to contribute something positive to the discussion, no matter how helpful rolled up pieces of paper shot through a straw may be:

Shout out to @sdutsullivan for reminding readers that fielding % is misleading. Good work. Next up, UZR!

And wouldn’t you know it? Here comes a primer from Bill Center of the Union Tribune on UZR, published at 12am last night by that party animal.

It’s a good article which covers the positives and negatives of UZR, including its inability to measure the context of player positioning at the start of a play, and that catcher defense is still a challenge.

There is this note from 3rd base and infield coach Glenn Hoffman that gives me a giggle:

“So much of defense is based on what you see and what you feel over pure statistics.”

Well, ok. Statistics are an attempt to quantify what we see. They allow us to compare players using the same criteria over tens of thousands of performances. I don’t want to discount the important of scouting, especially if information is only available in small samples or unique immeasurable circumstances. But lets just say if they were my millions of dollars at stake, I’d have a second thought about basing decisions on things people “feel”.

But I don’t want to distract from Bill Center’s effort with this article. I’m glad for the opportunity to hear from players, coaches, and front office personnel about UZR. Cheers to Bill Center and the Union Tribune. This is a strong step in the right direction.

Also, someone at the UT owes me a beer. Or a job. I’m good for either.

Posted in media, statistics | 9 Comments »

Tango’s community playing time forecast

March 29th, 2010 by

Tom Tango always has fun projects he puts together before the baseball season starts. This time, he’s putting the knowledge of those newfangled programmaphone machines that have weaseled their way into baseball against the One True Source of all baseball knowledge: the average fan.

Who knows more about whether a pitcher will be in the starting rotation or the bullpen: an algorithm or a true fan? Who knows more about the number of games an injured Joe Nathan will play in 2010: an algorithm or a Twins fan? There are certain human observation elements that are critical for forecasting. That’s where you can come in, and why you are here. Thanks for helping.

So go put your knowledge to the test. David Eckstein 4 eva!

Posted in statistics | Comments Off

What it takes to get along

March 22nd, 2010 by

Last month, when the Joe Mauer extension was simply an inevitability, I wrote about it and what it means for the Padres and Adrian Gonzalez.

The Twins got Mauer at 8-years $184 million, and that’s a steal not a deal, but there’s no way he’ll make less than 16% of their payroll anytime soon, which likely means they won’t win the World Series anytime soon. Despite this, it’s created an excitement for the Twins, Minnesota, and the game of baseball. While the Twins may not be raising any pennants in their new park anytime soon, they will be one of the few teams in the game who can say that they have an honest to goodness Mr. (insert team name here).

Even if you don’t think he’s quite a Mr., there’s no denying that Adrian Gonzalez is a special player and locking him up would ensure he wears the right hat into the Hall of Fame (you know, assuming). It would also put us beyond where Mauer puts the Twins, and it’s unlikely that Adrian would make less than 26% anytime soon.

You play to win the game, but is that the only reason?

Posted in hot stove, players | 9 Comments »

Subsidized stadium benefits: “It’s a case of the seen and unseen”

March 19th, 2010 by

I haven’t brought it up much on The Sac Bunt, but since developing an interest in the study of economics I’ve become a strong critic of publicly funded sports projects. JC Bradbury, a favorite sports blogger and professor of economics, eloquently explains why. (video below)

It’s very easy to see a new stadium going up, people spending money on tickets, concessions, but what you don’t see is that something else didn’t get built across town. We didn’t see waitress jobs lost, movie theater jobs lost, it’s just transferring [money] from one place to the other.

Posted in petco park | 3 Comments »

The other side of the PETCO coin

March 17th, 2010 by

Because of the other-worldly effects PETCO Park has on baseballs, anyone who considers themselves a student of the Padres must also consider themselves a student of park effects.

For this reason (also because they’re simply fabulous) I read developments in park effects with great interest. MGL recently shared thoughts on a better way to measure the park effects of teams on the road.

..the unbalanced schedule means that, for example, the Dodgers, Giants, and the Padres play a lot of games in ARI and COL, the two most hitter friendly parks in the NL.  And pitchers, especially starters, because they don’t pitch every day, may play an inordinate number of games in one park or parks or another.  This can make a big difference in terms of their raw, unadjusted (by their road parks) stats.

As they stand right now, park effects simply average all NL ballparks except PETCO when computing the Padres’ park effects on the road. This isn’t the best way since the team plays more games in Arizona and Colorado, for example, than they do in parks from the NL Central and NL East. Moreover, not all Padres pitchers pitch in the same road parks. Since hitters play every day and are less likely to play in one road park more than another, this detail is extra important for pitchers.

MGL continues: (A larger number means the park favors hitters)

Here are some Padre pitchers and the average park run factor of all the road parks they played in prorated by the number of TBF in each of those road parks:

Peavy 1.00 So he did in fact play in average road parks (actually not the 1.01 that you would expect)

Mujica 1.03 So if his road ERA were 5.00, that would actually be 4.85 after park adjusting it, which would make a difference of .05 runs in ERA overall (as compared to if you used the generic 1.01 for his road parks)!

Chris Young 1.04 Besides sucking due to a large decrease in velocity, he also played in heavy hitters’ parks on the road, costing himself .075 in overall park adjusted ERA.

Hopefully we’ll see more of this, and gain a stronger understanding of players’ true abilities..

Hat tip to Rob Neyer’s Wednesday Wangdoodles.

Posted in petco park | 3 Comments »

Quick Quote: Adrian Gonzalez

March 13th, 2010 by

“It’s sad to say, but having been traded a couple of times, I play for the guys in the clubhouse, the players, Buddy [Black] and his staff,” Gonzalez says. “I play in San Diego, but I’m not playing for the name across the jersey. I play for the guys in the clubhouse. You learn that you play for them.”

The Padres have given Adrian Gonzalez around $4.7 million dollars over his career. That’s not $180 million, but apparently it hasn’t been enough to convince him to play for the team. At the very least it should be enough to not say stupid things like this to the public.

I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but hearing Adrian and remembering Jake Peavy talk sure makes me appreciate Heath Bell, the only face of the Padres the last few years who seems to like the team.

Via CBS Sports

Posted in media | 11 Comments »

Padres street banners gallery

March 6th, 2010 by

The team is on the ball showing off the new banners via their Twitter account. Here are a few more hi-def cell phone shots, courtesy of Padre Homer.

No sand anywhere. I know Jeff Moorad doesn’t like the color, so how about a compromise: no sand in the marketing stuff, but the jerseys stay. Deal?

Apparently I’m in the bargaining phase of the grieving process.

With this hit we are off to the store!

Posted in media, petco park | 7 Comments »

The Sacrifice Cheat Sheet: The batting order

March 4th, 2010 by

With Bud Black busy eating burritos and drooling over Eckstein’s intangibles, I thought I’d give him some help with the state of the lineup and what he could to do make it better.

Last month, Black was pressed to name his batting order for this season, and we’ll forgive it because he was pressed. To further help bail Black out, I have come up with a proper batting order for the skip.

1. Everth Cabrera, SS

Don’t worry Bud, I’m not going to get all weird on you. The baseball constitution dictates that every team must utilize a fast player to leadoff (I think) and I will gladly go along with it. Everth is the fastest player on the team, but he can also get on-base, if only relatively so. Last year, he had an OBP of .342 with a walk rate of 10.5%, and most major projections see him keeping up his pace if not exceeding it. I can see questions arising regarding Cabrera’s age and lack of experience, but what could it hurt to challenge him?

2. Tony Gwynn, Jr./Scott Hairston, CF

AJ and Hairston, Sr. should see time in a platoon this year and they bring differing skill sets. Against right-handed pitching last year, AJ posted an OBP of .379. While his slugging was only .385, he still had a wRC+ of 118 in the split. At .378, Hairston has a similar OBP in his left-handed split, but his slugging was .543. During his previous stay, he was Adrian’s M&M buddy in the middle of the order, but another of my concessions to Bud is that one spot in the order is equal to one position on the field – the center fielders are hitting second. And with Hairston, the heart of the order could frequently find themselves at-bat with runners in scoring position, if not already in.

3. Chase Headley, 3B

If I didn’t put Headley in this spot, I would’ve put him at second. Not only do I value his OBP higher in the order, I don’t trust him hitting behind Adrian. Now that he’s back at third, Headley should hypothetically see an improvement in his offense: he’ll be able to concentrate more on his hitting as a result of concentrating less on his foreign position and he’ll be able to put back on the weight he lost to better run around the outfield. Add to that Headley’s hot-ish second half (.798 OPS) and there’s reason to have confidence in Headley.

4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B


5. Kyle Blanks, LF

Stay with me.

On one hand, I feel like there’s no explanation necessary. Last year, in 148 at-bats, Blanks hit 10 home runs with a wOBA of .372. Stretch that out over a full season and Blanks could hit more than 30 home runs. That would make Blanks only the second player to accomplish such a feat in Petco Park. This guy has prodigal power. But then those are the only 148 at-bats of Blanks’ career. He could still be a bust, or we could be lucky and he could just suffer through a sophomore slump but if it doesn’t work out, the team could still try Headley or Venable, or move Hairston to a more permanent position.

6. Will Venable, RF

I’ll let you know right now, the batting order gets pretty predictable from here on out. While I’m not a big believer in Venable, he has 20 homer potential and he’s left-handed, which only makes sense coming after the right-handed Blanks.

7. Nick Hundley, C

I’m not going to try to sell you on Hundley. It comes down to not being:

8. David Eckstein, 2B

I feel that it’d be better if I didn’t say anything at all.

Posted in players | 7 Comments »

From his agent: Gonzalez wants Teixeira money

March 2nd, 2010 by

Via Tim Sullivan, skip to the middle of the article for the good stuff:

Boggs said his preliminary discussion with Padres General Manager Jed Hoyer was so superficial that “you couldn’t characterize it as a negotiation.” Boggs said Hoyer inquired as to Gonzalez’s expectations; that Boggs cited the eight-year, $180 million deal of New York Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeira, and that that comment effectively ended Hoyer’s exploration.

Case closed right? Maybe not. Agent John Boggs goes on with an important follow up, buried at the bottom for some reason:

“You always shoot high and adjust to the marketplace,” John Boggs said. “Who knows what might happen? When Jeff (Moorad) was in Arizona, everyone thought the Diamondbacks had no money, and they signed (Troy) Glaus and Russ Ortiz.

Is Boggs taking a page out of the Scott Boras book by throwing out a crazy figure via the media to gain an upper hand in expectations? Or does Adrian Gonzalez actually expect 8 years and $180 million? Either way, it’s obvious what that means  for the Padres’ chances of keeping Adrian, and it should have been obvious before.

If I were in charge, I’d accept an offer as soon as I think it is the best the team will get, whenever that may be. They need to plan on contending around 2012, and any hesitation playing to win now means sacrificing talent during that run, when the stakes are so much higher. That would be a mistake.

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a poll. Lets have some fun.

How much service time (not necessarily which example) would you would you want from a player at the top of a package for Gonzalez?

  • Some service time (ex: Gordon Beckham) (52%, 17 Votes)
  • Ready now (ex: Fernando Martinez) (33%, 11 Votes)
  • 2+ Years away, (ex: Dustin Ackley, Casey Kelly) (15%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 33

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Posted in hot stove | 3 Comments »

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