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Team California

June 28th, 2010 by

Living in Chile, I find myself for the first time in a country that actually cares about the the World Cup*, even if it is now over. Clearly I’ve never cared before, not outside of the casual fandom that comes with generally liking sports, but it’s made me realize that I’ve never cared for the WBC either. I’ve watched both tournaments, even attending the Cuba/Japan game last year, but I found myself unengaged on a personal level, not really caring who won. I think that might make me a bad American. Personally, I blame Adam Dunn.


As it’s the player’s fault, I figure that the best way to fix my milquetoast is to build my own (if only hypothetical) team. But then, creating a fantasy Team USA is boring. The only real challenge is whether or not I can find a way to keep Kevin Youkilis off the team, so instead I present to you my picks for Team California. If we’re big enough to be in the G20, I’d say we’re big enough to field our own baseball team.

Rules: For eligibility on the team, a player had to be born in and attend high school in California. That means that Prince Fielder, who was born in Ontario but went to high school in Florida is not eligible.

Catcher – Gerald Laird (Westminster)

Exciting start, right? Laird might not be much with the bat, but it’ll be buried in this lineup. He’s a solid backstop who’ll be there to catch the pitches our All-Star pitchers throw.
Alternate: Rod Barajas (Santa Fe Springs)

First Base – Adrian Gonzalez (Chula Vista)

Now that’s more like it. You know Adrian, so I don’t think I need to tell you why he belongs on this team. Whether or not he’ll pick California over Mexico is another story, but I’ll leave that to someone else to figure out.
Alternate: Derrek Lee (Sacramento)

Second Base – Chase Utley (Long Beach)

Possibly the toughest call of the team, Utley just got the nod over Dustin Pedroia, but really it wasn’t that tough. Utley is one of the most well-rounded players in the game, who can hit for power, draw a walk, steal a base, and play the best defensive second in the game.
Alternate: Dustin Pedroia (Woodland)

Third Base – Evan Longoria (Downey)

We haven’t even gotten to shortstop yet and we already have the best infield that you’ll find anywhere. Along with Utley, Longoria is an easy pick for the Team USA roster (and not just because he attended Long Beach State): another well-rounded player who will hit for power and catch the ball.
Alternate: Michael Young (Covina)

Shortstop – Troy Tulowitzki (Santa Clara)

Like seemingly everyone else on this team (including fellow former Dirtbag Longoria), Tulo is a player who can do it all. If I were the coach, and I’m not (you’ll have to wait to see who is), I’d likely put Tulowitzki in the leadoff spot, which tells you a little bit about how deep this team is in the middle of the order.
Alternate: Jimmy Rollins (Oakland)

Left field – Ryan Braun (Granada Hills)

Oh look, another All-Star. Braun is one more Californian worthy of being on Team USA, and we know this because he played in the 09 WBC. While not quite the complete player his new teammates are, Braun is a major power threat who will feast in the middle of this lineup and hopefully rely on this next guy to hide his horrible, horrible glove.
Alternate: Milton Bradley (Long Beach)

Center field – Tony Gwynn, Jr. (Poway)

If you were to say that this pick is pure homerism, you’d probably be right. But in my defense, I’d like to say the following two things: 1. There are not a lot of quality California-bred center fielders in the bigs right now, and 2. Tony’s not so bad. As Melvin recently argued, UZR is a statistic that requires a lot of evidence before an opinion can really be reached, but I’m willing to take a chance on Tony’s excellent two (or so) years.
Alternate: Adam Jones (San Diego)

Right field – Adam Jones (San Diego)

While Jones is no AJ when it comes to patrolling centerfield, he’s still a solid player who does everything good even if he doesn’t do a whole lot great. With his strong arm, Jones should be able to slide into right without a problem, and any offense he can contribute will be gravy given the kind of guys he’ll be hitting behind.
Alternate: Will Venable (Marin County)

And there’s that. I’m not sure if you noticed, but there are three San Diegans in the starting eight. If one were so inclined, they could build an All-San Diego team that would be able to hold their own in any competition. We’ll see more San Diegans on the pitching side, which I will get to in a couple of days.

As always, please tell me where I got it wrong in the comments section.

*Apologies to the 14 people in the US who like soccer.

Posted in misc | 2 Comments »

Sample size, randomness, baseball, and you

June 22nd, 2010 by

Special note: this post doesn’t have a lot of jokes. In exchange for your forgiveness, please accept this photo of Padres prospect Blake Tekotte. Thank you.

Blake Tekotte

When looking at statistics, there are two major pieces of information to learn.

  • How much has a player contributed to his team in the past?
  • How much will a player contribute to his team in the future?

Often times, the ability of a player to contribute to his team in the future is called “true talent level”. This is a player’s raw ability, with other factors such as luck and the ballpark environment in which he plays stripped from the conversation. This is where the concept of sample size is most important. Without using an adequate sample size in measurement, all the stuff that doesn’t affect a player’s future performance might mess up our opinions. Sample size, among other things, is what gets us there.

While fun and interesting, when talking about things a particular baseball squadron should or should not do, a player’s contributions in the past generally aren’t relevant. Sure there are exceptions–when a lifelong Padre player is negotiating his final contract–for instance. But those are rare.

My stupid example: flipping a coin

Suppose you ask me to call heads or tails as you flip a quarter in the air. I choose heads, and wouldn’t you know it, the quarter lands heads up! Does this mean I will know the result of all future coin flips when asked? In other words, do I have a perfect “true talent level” of calling coin flips? Of course not, and we all understand why. Because of luck.

Along these lines, each measurement (or statistic) has its own requirements for sample size. If you flipped a second coin, and I guess correctly a second time, that still doesn’t prove my coin guessing. We simply haven’t reached the number of coin flips necessary to filter out the luck. As you approach 50 coin flips and calls, my successful calling rate will likely be pretty close to my true talent level of 50%.

Back to baseball: wOBA and UZR

The same applies for baseball measurements. Different stats require different amounts of trial before they eliminate noise. I’m not a stat expert, so I can’t expressly say exactly how many tries one should use for each stat. For me, 3-5 years of wOBA (my favorite hitting stat) is what I want to see when looking at a player. 500 plate appearances at minimum.

When measuring defense with UZR, however, things are different. 3 years of UZR data is worth about 1 year of hitting data. That means when determining a defender’s true talent level, as I understand it, you really ought to look at 9 years of data. I’m completely serial. 3 years of UZR at minimum.

So please, everyone from message board posters to SDUT staff writers, be careful when making judgement about a player’s future potential using statistics. Especially UZR.

Your pal,

Melvin

Posted in statistics | 7 Comments »

Help us (insert name here), you’re our only hope!: Episode III – Fall of the White Sox

June 7th, 2010 by

Previously on The Sac Bunt: We discussed the Padres meager offensive production and the various aging veterans who could come in and theoretically provide some punch.

At the time, the Padres were 13th in the NL and 23rd in the majors with a .312 wOBA. Today, our wOBA remains at .312, but it is now good for 14th in the NL and 25th in the majors. Now that’s consistency! At the time, I threw out Jermaine Dye and Andruw Jones, and later Pat Burrell, as players who might-or-might not be able to help. Burrell has since signed with the Giants and Dye seems to have fallen off the radar, so it’s Andruw Jones who has prompted the writing of this article.

Today, Buster Olney reported that the Chicago White Sox are officially open for business, looking to move the players that they can from their underachieving team. While they have some bench players that might be of interest to us, including Omar Vizquel, we’re focusing on Jones.

When I first brought him up, Jones had a .949 OPS and a .424 wOBA. Those numbers have since dropped to .823 and .363, respectively, after a rough May: .208/.301/.417/.718, .322. It should be noted that Jones’ May is better than entire season for Venable, Gwynn, and Blanks. Faint praise, I know, but notable. While Jones is still drawing his walks, but he’s not hitting the ball very hard, so it’s not out of line to think that he was the beneficiary of a hot start. Fortunately, what hasn’t changed is his contract.

Along with his $1 million worth of performance bonuses, Jones is still signed to the $500 thousand contract he was at the beginning of the year. Depending on who Kenny Williams asks for in return, Jones could be a low-risk/high-reward chance for the Padres to take. If Jones figures something out back in the NL, the Padres have an outfielder who can actually hit the ball and if not, they’re only on the hook for less than half a million dollars and (hopefully) a mid-level prospect with no real future in San Diego.

With the lack of any real optimism in our lineup, this could be the kind of a risk a team vastly exceeding everyone’s expectations should take. If nothing else, they can at least point to this and say that they tried, after they move Adrian and Bell for some prospects.

Posted in hot stove | 17 Comments »

Adrian Gonzalez Padres Wallpaper: Silhouette

June 6th, 2010 by

Adrian Gonzalez Wallpaper Silhouette

[1280 x 1024]

[1200 x 800]

[1024 x 768]

Enjoy! I meant to have a new wallpaper for opening day, but when your motherboard dies things gets tough.

And in the realm of actual Padres stuff, it looks like my pre-season prediction of 78 wins was conservative, (!!!) making a new Adrian Gonzalez wallpaper a safe move. Glad to be wrong.

Posted in misc | 1 Comment »

To be the best

June 4th, 2010 by

After tonight’s game, the Padres will be a third of the way through the season and they could potentially have the best record in the NL, so it’s only fitting that tonight’s game wil be against the two-time defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies, with superace Roy Halladay on the mound. But how have the Padres done against the other good teams in the league? Good question, Ray! Let’s take a look:

Record

This list is made up of all the teams at or above .500 at the end of play on June 2nd.

W L %
Atlanta 1 2 .333
Cincinnati 2 1 .667
Colorado 2 4 .333
Florida 2 1 .667
Los Angeles 1 4 .200
New York 2 1 .667
St. Louis 2 1 .667
San Francisco 7 1 .875
Total 19 15 .559
Pythagorean 19 15 .569

The team’s .559 winning percentage isn’t too far off of their .604 overall mark, which means that they’re doing the fair thing and treating all team’s equally. Less sarcastically, it means that the team isn’t just beating up on the bad teams, but that they are more than stepping up when necessary. In fact, the Padres have played more than twice as many games against the better teams in the league, making their run even more impressive.

Hitting

To assess the team’s hitting, I looked at how they matched up against the top teams in the league by OPS.

OPS
Atlanta .836
Cincinnati .782
Colorado .602
Florida .584
Los Angeles .641
New York .924
St. Louis .551
San Francisco .655
.500+ .681
Overall .692

As should have been predicted, the team has not hit very well against the better team in the league, but then the team doesn’t hit well against any teams. There are exceptions but none are memorable. Overall, against teams over .500, the Padres have hit below their season average but not by too much, so that can be the silver lining. But really, this should not be a surprise.

Pitching

To assess the team’s pitching, I looked at how they matched up against the top teams in the league by ERA.

ERA
Atlanta 4.33
Cincinnati 3.12
Colorado 4.20
Florida 5.19
Los Angeles 3.68
New York 3.41
St. Louis 2.61
San Francisco 2.79
.500+ 3.36
Overall 3.01

In a funny way, these numbers are almost disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with them, as they’re still pretty good. A team ERA of 3.36 would still be good for third in the NL and fourth in the entire league, it’s just 35 points higher than the overall mark and this team’s kind of spoiled me. Though it’s encouraging to see the team do well against the teams that have seen them the most (save for Colorado and Coors Field).

With two-thirds of the season left, this really means nothing and it’s very possible that the ground will start coming up on the Padres. But as far as Halladay and the Phillies are concerned, they are about to start a series with a team that has shown that, so far, it can hang with the big boys.

Posted in statistics | 2 Comments »

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