Padres bloggin' since 2007

Matt Vasgersian everyone!

September 4th, 2008 by

Matt: I think we’ve become a little more sophisticated now in evaluating players & performance. We don’t just look at batting average, home runs, & runs batted in anymore.

It’s finally happened. Sweet Lord, I thank thee for this day. Your child, Matthew Eduardo Vasgersian is learning things. He has decided to augment his broadcasting ability with a thirst for knowledge. He is paid to explain baseball to people. Now he will compliment this position by learning what really smart people have studied about the sport.

Comeuppance, sweet comeuppance.  I can taste you. Vasgersian continues…

Matt: You look at things like “what they’re hitting after the 7th inning”, and “batting average with runners in scoring position”.

Mark: And [hitting with] Counts.  How many times we see that now?

Comeuppance!! Comeuppaannnceeee! You were my only friend, now you’ve left me stranded on the side of the interstate, mouth dry, contemplating drinking that gross radiator water even though the sign says not to. What a disappointing situation. I thought I was getting laid. Or at least, you know, an accidental boob graze.

This goes on.

Matt: Part of why baseball is so wonderful & why anybody thinks they can be a general manager [is that] information is available to everybody. Anybody can get access to just about anything they want.

(Padres-Dodgers, 9/3/2008)

Yes Matt, I’m aware of this. Are you? Because from your entire body of work as an analyst it’s clear that research is a brand fucking new concept.

And yes, I see the irony that Matt is insulting numbnuts like me because I’ve read a few Nate Silver articles and think I’m so great. I’ll admit my wealth of knowledge isn’t as broad as my stupid online persona might have you believe. But here’s the thing: I’m a dude and a keyboard.

Matt Vasgersian is paid to get on TV and explain how this stuff works. That’s it. That’s his career. And he’s using this position to tell people who rely on him that sabermetrics is all about how well you hit after the seventh inning, like somehow runs count more late in the game. And who exactly is it that uses batting average with runners in scoring position to evaluate players? Murray Chass?

Here’s a fun science project: over a reasonable population size, most players hit better with runners in scoring position than they do without. This is because bad pitchers tend to put more runners on base than good pitchers. So if someone claims a hitter isn’t clutch, more than likely you can drop the BA with RISP bomb to easily and irresponsibly get out of the discussion. Being right makes you more of a man, so that’s nice too.

Anyway, congratulations Melvin. The Sacrifice Bunt is now a low-rent Fire Joe Morgan. You should be proud.

Posted in misc | 3 Comments »

Kyle “Banks” Blanks, head of Padres’ bright side department

August 3rd, 2008 by

Believe it or not there’s more to being a Padres blogger these days than crying to your friends that you and Khalil had something special, and it just isn’t like him to leave you for your best friend the way he did.

I have good news on a couple fronts, the first of which is that Baseball Prospectus released a bushel of minor league stats for our perusal.  The standard stats are nothing new, what’s great though are the translation stats which give context and comparability to the otherwise dubious minor league numbers.

The first set of stats, called “regular translations” adjust for factors we’re used to adjusting for on our fine web publication, The Sac Bunt.  They accommodate differences in ballpark factors and league difficulty, then they adjust for what we’d expect minor league numbers to translate to at the major league level.  Pretty sweet, eh?

The second grouping, dubbed “peak translations”, get even better.  They adjust for old men in unmarked vans playing among the kiddies.  In other words, a 30 year old non-prospect beating up a bunch of 19 year olds in rookie league isn’t impressing anyone but his tough guy friends from high school.  Peak translations give an idea of what kind of performance we can expect from a player based on these age and league considerations.

This brings us to Padre broadcaster Matt Vasgersian’s favorite prospect, the dude Vasgersian referred to on a spring training broadcast as “Kyle Banks”.  He normally goes by Kyle Blanks, and is tied for third in all double and triple-A in Equivalent Runs.

Equivalent Runs sums up batter’s total offensive value per out.  This includes on base percentage, slugging percentage, and stolen bases, among others.  It is then adjusted for everything mentioned above, and converted into runs.  Then Kyle kicks its ass.

AB HR OBP SLG EqA EqR
Kyle Blanks 385 21 .398 .551 .317 77

You can find the rest of the list in this helpful minor league translations breakdown.

Here are some other guys I’ve found of note.  Josh Geer is 9th in the PCL (triple-A) for Equivalent Runs Allowed, Joe Thatcher is 9th in Equivalent ERA, Sac Bunt favorite Paul McAnulty is 3rd for Equivalent Average, which is like EqRuns but looks like batting average.  Luke Carlin is 6th in the same category.

Moving down to double-A in the Texas league, Will Inman, Stephen Faris, and Steve Garrison stand at 2nd, 4th, and 5th in Equivalent Runs Allowed.  Chad Huffman is 5th in Equivalent Runs.  These are all peak translations numbers.

So there you go, things to do this time of year besides bitching and moaning.  On the other hand, bitching and moaning are what make the blogosphere go round (Reference: TheSacrificeBunt.com).

Posted in players, statistics | 5 Comments »

Giving Them What They Don’t Want

June 2nd, 2008 by

Ever wondered how much time you waste being advertised to during a normal baseball game?  During a Channel 4SD broadcast between the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals on May 20th, 2008 I decided to find out.

The game of baseball has changed a lot over the years.  Technological advancements, most recently those of the Internet age, have changed the rules of interaction between the entertainer and the entertainee.

The fears of broadcasters that were envisioned when home videotaping was declared legal, are finally coming to pass.  People are watching fewer commercials and baseball is no exception.  Yeah no shit Melvin, enough with the overly dramatic intro.  Get to the point.

Wait, did I say that or just think it?

The point, jerk, is that Channel 4 San Diego, the Cox Communications owned cable channel that broadcasts the Padres, has to find a way to turn a profit in this difficult landscape.  Their response, has been to increase sponsored broadcast time during Padres games in addition to standard commercial breaks.

The San Diego Padres, in conjunction with the City of San Diego own and operate Petco Park.  To boost revenues, the small market team sells advertising signage in a multitude of sizes and locations throughout the ballpark.  This of course, though the sign density has varied in ballparks throughout history, is not news.  What is news, is that new signs are still popping up, they even hinder fan views of the game. (Hat tip Gaslamp Ball)

How much does that add up?

Lots of new information about the nature of baseball was discovered over the last decade or so.  We learned most of it by taking a new approach, using evidence and data to support theories.  My intent is to apply this principal to another aspect of the baseball fan experience.  Instead of simply estimating,  I want to know exactly how much time we spend being marketed to while watching a San Diego Padres broadcast.

My plan is to accurately measure both normal commercials and in-game advertising.  To do this, I used two watches and measured each category separately.  I hope you’re envisioning this beautiful image of me sitting in front of both a TV and computer, taking notes, and intensely operating not one but two stop watches.  If only my high school crush could see me now.  Lucky for my pride it was only a Tuesday night.

The first stop watch was the easy one.  It kept track of time during every commercial break, of both the national and local variety.

The second watch was the doozie.  It ran during every second that a viewer saw or heard any type of paid marketing message, not including normal commercials.  This also did not include in house MLB or Padres messages.  Though those types of messages were included if they were corporate sponsored messages, which was usually the case.

The study includes any shilling from Mud for his various spokesdeals, though it deserves mention that play-by-play was called by Steve Quis on this particular broadcast.  The guys in this game kept the paid lauding to a minimum.

In addition, any time a stadium sign ad was clearly readable, time was kept.  This constituted behind the plate ads seen from the center-field camera angle, and ads in the dugout.  I watched on an older 19” standard def television, from about 8 feet away.  It’s safe to say that this setup, a bastion of bleeding edge television technology, didn’t offer any unfair viewing advantage.

The results

Here’s a list of the various sponsored baseball happenings, brought to you by this or named after that through Cox Channel 4.  I’ll leave out the names of the corporate sponsors, though any semi-regular watcher could probably rattle them off quicker than names of family members.  Most of them appeared more than once throughout the broadcast.

  • SAP telecastSan Diego Padres advertising time
  • defensive alignments for both teams
  • lineups for both teams
  • “mlb comparisson” stat board
  • trivia question
  • bottom of the screen out of town scoreboard
  • all middle of the inning pitching changes, plus select new inning pitching changes
  • “major league leaders” stat board
  • the box score
  • beyond the box score
  • postgame show
  • pregame show
  • pitch tracker
  • various incarnations of replays

Moving on to the meat, the total game time was 144 minutes. Of that, the regular commercials lasted 28 minutes and 30 seconds.  The total in game advertisement time including all shilling and visible stadium ads came to 33 minutes and 55 seconds.  This means that both categories of product hawking during the broadcast took up a grand total of 62 minutes and 25 seconds, roughly 44% of total game time (there is a small amount of round off error in the chart).

What does Melly Mel think?

If it isn’t clear from my tone, I’m not all that into advertising.  That said, it doesn’t take a Joe Morgan intern to glance at the sidebar on the right and notice that even the great Sac Bunt sells advertising space.  The big deal to me is that while broadcasters are working to compensate for viewers watching fewer commercials by selling airtime during games, they still show as many commercials as ever.

It’s a long slow process, I know.  But I think the graph above demonstrates that shit’s getting a bit excessive.  It needs fixin.  As more in game advertising increases, lets spend less time dilly daddling around with the same old crap in between innings.

Whatever changes happen, they have to start with the fans.  If the powers at be think we’re ok with it, they’ll pile it on til the cows come home.  This goal of this article is to draw attention to what is happening, and encourage people to speak their mind about it.  For all I know, people might be ok with the clutter.  But considering the reaction to the above mentioned Spider Man movie debacle, I don’t think this is the case.  That’s why we should talk about it.

Posted in media, petco park | 5 Comments »

9 Reasons to Still Be Excited About the Padres

May 13th, 2008 by

Well, the San Diego Padres are off to a disappointing 15-25 start, and the city of San Diego is hurting.  Attendance is down, message boards are calling for changes, and radio talk show hosts are lambasting the club with poorly reasoned analysis and sensationalist negativity.  Well, we should be used to that last one by now, nothing new there.

Fear not!  Keep your cool.  Don’t call in to radio shows.  Melvin Nieves is here to melt away the disappointment with 9 reasons to still be excited about the San Diego Padres:

  1. The Padres have never worn a vest jersey. Good God, who would believe somehow more teams are switching to these mockeries of style.
  2. Tony Clark: black guy
  3. Led by Matt Antonelli and Chase Headley, the farm system improved from 29th in the majors to 12th according to Baseball Prospectus. The new training facility in the Dominican offers additional promise for the farm system.
  4. Jody Gerut is here to provide the unconquerable, unbeatable weapon that is team speed. Bonus black guy.
  5. Fewer TV viewers mean broadcaster Matt Vasgersian has a longer leash for offending as many people as he sees fit, to our amusement.
  6. Since the team balked at hosting the official Padre blogger meetup day, we’re free to be as angry as we please without risking good standing with the club.
  7. We don’t live in Minnesota.
  8. Paul DePodesta’s blog.  The Sacrifice Bunt finally has something in common with someone smart.
  9. To show those nerds at Baseball Prospectus their 1.6% Padres playoff odds are for sissies.

Posted in the funny | 4 Comments »

Iguchi’s Key Is Working The Count, But Not At All

May 7th, 2008 by

In the top of the sixth during the Padres-Braves match up tonight, Matt Vasgersian and Mark Grant were discussing Padres 2008 second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and his hitting troubles this year.

Vasgersian, using Iguchi’s single on a 3-2 count as an example, proclaimed that Iguchi’s key to hitting success, along with the key of many others in the game, is to work the count.  Let me say that you’re not going to get much of an argument from me about that.  Working the count and taking walks are an important part of not making outs, which in turn is important to winning ballgames.  However, a quick check of Baseball-Reference.com shows some amusing numbers:

Tadahito Iguchi
Year Pitches per PA OPS+
2005 3.84 104
2006 3.91 97
2007 3.88 92
2008 4.19 79

Pitches per plate appearance of course are the most elemental aspect of “working the count”.

30 seconds.  30 seconds is how long it took me to fire up B-R and check if the facts support a theory.  It probably would have been faster if I spelled Iguchi’s name right my first try.

This is more than just one event

I don’t want to hang this one on just Vasgersian and Grant.  The segment sounded like it came from a producer.  Reason being that when the subject was introduced, a quick recap video of Iguchi’s previous plate appearance was cued up and ready to go.  It’s just a guess from me, but the whole segment seemed a bit polished to be just Vasgersian rambling to kill time.  (If it didn’t come from a producer, then I’ll admit that changes things.  I don’t expect the play-by-play guy to check b-r for every off the cuff remark on a live broadcast, I know it’s a hard enough job.)

This gaffe represents the Padres’ broadcasting crew, run by Cox communications, and their poor regard for the proper use of statistics.  Statistical sampling issues, among others, abound on nearly every broadcast.  Arbitrary constraints are thrown in to samples sizes which apparently make the information “interesting”, but end up being misleading and not at all helpful to the fan’s understanding of the game.  The number of outs made on Tuesdays that Brian Giles tans before the game are what we end up hearing about, and it sucks.

Things may not get better.  Producer Ed Barnes had this to say regarding statistics recently, courtesy of the Union Tribune:

“I don’t want it to be wall-to-wall stats,” he said. “I’m not the guy who’s going to be introducing EqA – equivalent average – to the show or something like that. . . . If we can find a way to put a nice bow on something and provide a nice context, then I don’t think a new stat is necessarily a bad thing. But we are not going to be scanning ‘Baseball Prospectus’ from this year and putting that on the air.”

This isn’t what I’m asking for, wall to wall nerdiness.  Except maybe equivalent average, I am asking for that.  Because it’s easy, and it includes a buttload more information than just hits divided by at-bats.  Plus it’s set to the scale of batting average, so .260 is about average and .320 is very good.  That doesn’t sound too terrible does it?

What I am asking for, is a little responsibility.  Spend 30 freaking seconds on Iguchi’s pitches per plate appearances, even less time if you can spell.  Don’t needlessly limit sample size “for fun” without telling people that doing so totally craps up the data.  Times are changing.  It’s funny that it the improvement on the subject had to happen from the bottom up.  It’s time for those with all the resources to respond to the innovations made by those who don’t.

Anyway, this kind of turned into a rant.  I’m only halfway sorry about that.

PS: I still love you Matt Vasgersian.

Posted in gripes, media, players, statistics | 4 Comments »

Batting By Pitch Count

April 22nd, 2008 by

Matt and Mud were wondering on the air today about a batter’s propensity to foul pitches off on full counts.  Baseball-Reference PI can calculate by player, unfortunately I don’t know how to do it inclusively.  Individually, the contact percentage in my informal study seems to vary wildly by player and batting count.

I’ll take this opportunity to ignore their question and talk about something I find more important: expected outcome by count.  Tango has some work on the subject.

Expected outcome at 3-2 count:

wOBA BABIP AVG OBP SLG
.403 .303 .230 .470 .380

Think of wOBA as something like OPS, an all inclusive type stat but set to the scale as OBP.  So .340 would be about average, etc.

The predicted outcome of wOBA and OBP on a 3-2 count makes sense inherently.  A batter won’t be as productive overall with fewer than three balls, and will be more productive with 3 balls and fewer strikes.

What strikes me as odd, is the slugging drop off on a 3-2 count compared to 2-1, or even a 1-0 count.  You’ll have to click over to Tango’s site to see the entire table.

My thinking is that hitters are so asked to attempt to make any kind of contact (protect the plate) with two strikes.  This means they’re more likely to just toss the bat in front of the pitch, even with 3 balls and a walk imminent.  Hitters face a seemingly irrational scorn for looking at strike three, which appears especially strange on full counts.  This may correlate with Matt and Mud’s theory of more foul balls on counts that are full.

One note from Tom Tippett: be careful to differentiate between the “through” count data with the “at” count data.  The advantages to hitter friendly counts and disadvantages to pitcher friendly counts are skewed all funky like unless you look at the “through” count data.  Otherwise the context and meaning of the rest of the at bat is lost.

Tough loss today for the Padres.  On the plus side, Brian Giles is off to a fantastic start.

Posted in statistics | Comments Off

Phrases I’d Like Matty V to Use On Air

January 29th, 2008 by

I love Matty V. He’s witty, irreverent, and is loaded with pop culture info that by all rights should be totally useless to anyone, but he pulls it off. He chose to pick up a mutual option for 2008 as opposed to leaving for greener market sized offerings in LA, Chicago, FOX, or ESPN.

I don’t understand it, you wanted to leave in 2004. Now you chose to stay. Matt, you are an enigma wrapped in a conundrum wrapped in the warm pillowy flatbread of another enigma.

But I can’t stay confused with you. Because I love the way you put Grant in his place. You seem genuine. I love the way you seem like yourself on air.

That said, nobody’s perfect. Here are some phrases I think you should use, or continue the use of, during Padres broadcasts:

  • absofruitly posilutely
  • guesstimate
  • get in your el camino and go back to the ozarks
  • Equivalent Average
  • bodacious catch
  • the sample size isn’t large enough to draw any meaningful results
  • folks, you should check out thesacbunt.com
  • is it a slam?
  • the Generals win!
  • watch me host a celebrity pull my finger tournament, next week on FOX
  • shut the fuck up Mark

When it comes to actual analysis Matt, you suck. Leave it to the professionals. And by the professionals I mean us.

Posted in media, the funny | 2 Comments »

“American Gladiators” is back

January 6th, 2008 by

But Vasgersian’s not doing it.

I hope he fired his manager after missing out on this.

Melvin’s Thoughts:

My favorite was the bloody forehead girl, who bonked her dome on a metal bar, then bloodied up her face and proceeded to finish the race. I’m surprised and glad her race wasn’t ended early by officials for something lame like a bloody face, unlike those decidedly un-hardcore leagues like the NBA would do.

My runner up favorite goes to Hulk Hogan for the record breaking use of the word ‘brother’ in an interview. Which interview you ask? I don’t know either.

Ray’s Thoughts:

For the duration of the series, I’m going to keep track of the Gladiator I think would work the best in left for the Padres this season.

 Tonight’s left fielder: Justice. 

Posted in media, misc | 2 Comments »

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