Harper’s Projection Problem

March 14, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I dissected the PECOTA projections for the Nats, and mentioned why I thought some of them might be inaccurate. BryceswingThe first one I discussed as probably being a bit off was Bryce Harper’s to which I said

This would be an incredible stat line for any 20 year old… human. But since Harper is superhuman, I’m guessing there’s nothing in the code to deal with that, and his age is hurting his predicted performance

I didn’t go much beyond that, but Matthew Kory did. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here are a few highlights as to why he thinks Harper will do better than the 259/.324/.442 PECOTA says he will. When trying to come up with an actual comparable player to Harper, he notes the biggest issue with projection systems, which “projects player performance based on comparison with historical player-seasons.”:

This illustrates the problem with projecting a player with Harper’s specific skill set at so young an age. Where projection systems can usually be very precise, with Harper they can’t; the data just doesn’t exist. Therefore projection systems can’t be as certain, and the range of possible outcomes is much greater than it normally would be.

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Catching up with The World Baseball Classic

March 12, 2013

If you haven’t watched any of the World Baseball Classic, you’re not alone. The ratings haven’t been great, but alot of the games certainly have been. There have been quite a few highlights from this WBC already, but here are a few that are worth catching:2013-World-Baseball-Classic

The Netherlands sports a fun lineup that includes Roger Bernadina, Randolph Oduber (a probable non-prospect for the Nats), and the Braves young SS Andrelton Simmons who could be the MVP of the entire tournament, hitting .370/.400/.704. Also impressive on the team has been Andruw Jones, and Curt Smith, a Miami Marlins farmhand who is Sir-Not-Appearing-on-this-Page when it comes to any top 10 prospect list I’ve seen, but is so far hitting .375/.467/.542.

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Rendon’s Spring Success

March 6, 2013

Anthony Rendon is doing just what he wanted to do in Spring Training – get noticed. Of course, ranking 17th on Keith Law’s prospect list and 35th on Baseball Prospectus’ list, its safe to say he had already been noticed. But you get my point. He’s hit .400/.428/1.000, with 3 HRs and 3 doubles in 21 PAs after Wednesday’s game, which is, needless to say, a good start.

We know that spring stats are to be taken very lightly. RendonAnd even if they were more valuable, the sample size is so small that his numbers seem much less impressive. It’s a great week, not much more. But because he is only 22, and because he has less than 200 pro PAs, this is still very encouraging to see. It’s clear he can hold his own against high end pro pitching, even if he isn’t facing aces all the time.

No matter how well he hits in the spring, though, there should be no question where he belongs to start the season. He has less than half a season of pro baseball under his belt, and there isn’t a hole in the lineup waiting for him. So he’d be resigned to the bench, which is probably the worst place for a hitter with his experience. He needs to hit every day if possible, because he still needs to learn every day. But that isn’t the end of the conversation with him. Read the rest of this entry »


The Nats and PECOTA Projections

February 20, 2013

Oh poor Nats… they are just not as good as we all thought. At least that might be your first reaction if you look at the playoff odds report at Baseball Prospectus. They are projected to finish 87-75 (after rounding) despite winning 98 next year. And while they are projected to win the NL East, they have the lowest playoff percentage chance of any projected division leader at 67.9%, and the lowest chance of winning the World Series of any of them as well, at 7.6%. What gives?

Ok, before you go storm the offices of Baseball Prospectus (for which, I assume, you’d need some help from ENCOM) let’s keep a few things in mind. First of all, the Nats are forecast to win the NL East, not come in second. The Braves are forecast to be the second place team at only 82-80, which would give the Nats a comfortable lead. And all of this is based on PECOTA, which has some quirks that are worth noting. That doesn’t mean PECOTA is worth ignoring, its just important to know what the issues might be.

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5 Nationals on Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects List

February 5, 2013

ESPN’s prospect guru Keith Law listed his Top 100 Minor League prospects today, and 5 Nats made the list. For a shallow farm system (ranked 21st by Law), the fact that there are so many high end guys is good, and a little surprising. So let’s see who he put here, and why:

#17 Anthony Rendon

This one isn’t too surprising, most places list Rendon as the team’s best prospect. The fact that he’s top 20 in the minors is nice, and he would be higher for certain if he wasn’t so damn fragile. But Law like his swing and his ability to hit for doubles, even if he doesn’t see him as a big HR guy. Rendon is 22, and hit .233/.363./.489 throughout the minors last year, finishing up in AA. He dominated the other leagues, but wasn’t great in AA, so he’ll start 2013 in Harrisburg.

#44 Brian Goodwin

Goodwin has been moving up prospect lists over the last few seasons, but to be a top 50 prospect… that’s impressive. Heck, he wasn’t even on Law’s list last year. Goodwin was highly regarded back in college but several factors caused him to slip out of the first round, and out of elite prospect status. Law says he has “plus-plus speed, quick bat, and surprising power” and using the Mike Cameron comparison (speed, defense, power… and strikeouts) that we’ve already seen for Goodwin. Goodwin is 22 and hit .280/.384/.469 in A+ and AA last year. Like Rendon, he wasn’t so spectacular in AA to force the Nats to promote him, so expect him in Harrisburg this spring as well. Road trip, anyone?

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Espinosa’s Shoulder Injury, the Numbers

January 28, 2013

Danny Espinosa revealed that he played the end of last season with a torn rotator cuff, and that if he had known how bad he was hurt, he probably wouldn’t have played. A few questions come to mind, the most important one is probably why he is electing to not have surgery. He could, after all, have surgery today and probably be back by late May.

Espi on 2nd

We’ll tackle that one later. Another question that comes to mind centers around his performance. How much was he affected? Did he hurt the Nats chances, will he be all better this year, etc etc.

He said he was hurt in early September, and got a cortisone shot on Sept 17, but that didn’t really help. The injury seems to have been made public on Sept 17, it had hurt for “the past week” and he only played 3 games in that week, due to leaving for his grandmother’s funeral after Sept 11. So using Sept 11 as a cutoff point, we can see what he did

Pre-injury: .255/.321/.416, K/PA:.276
Post-injury (reg. season): .183/.258/.283, K/PA: .364
Playoffs: .059/.176/.059, K/PA: .368

The playoffs looked even worse, but that’s not surprising as the injury had more time to hurt, the pitching was tougher, and the sample size was small enough that anything can happen. The K/PA didn’t change much, but, again, sample sizes. Now combining the last few PAs of the season, adding the playoffs stats to the post-injury regular season, it looks like this:

Pre-injury: .255/.321/.416, K/PA: .276
Post-injury: .156/.241/.234, K/PA: .365

One more exercise – if you’ve read this blog at all you know I love to get rid of April with Espinosa’s numbers. Not because April doesn’t count, but just because he was so bad in April, that whether he was hurt, mentally lost, heartbroken, or his contacts were in the wrong eyes there was something different about him. Well, let’s not just eliminate it, let’s line it up with the other pieces of his season:

April 5 – May 3: .182/.277/.239, K/PA: .313
May 3 – Sept 11: .269/.330/.451, K/PA: .271
Sept 11 – Oct 12: .156/.241/.234, K/PA: .365

Alright, so I didn’t expect some sort of statistical revelation from this, just interesting to look at that. It’s hard to imagine he had this injury in April, but he looked like a completely different hitter for 490 PAs from early May to mid Sept than he did before or after. And other than a few more singles in April, he was basically an identical hitter in April and September, which is interesting.

As for the injury we KNOW about in September, that one clearly affected him. He hit is OPS high water mark on Sept 5 (.746) and stayed around there all week, including his last day before leaving, Sept 11 when he went 1 for 4 with a double (.737). While I’m not sure when he actually got hurt, it was possible in those last 3 games before the time off, he was, as he did go just 1 for 10 with that double. Of course, that is only 3 games, and while we’re dealing with small sample sizes here, lets not go down to that ridiculous level.

It was pretty much a downhill skid from there, and if he hadn’t gotten hurt, it was likely he’d finish the season on the same path he had been going since May 3. His .781 OPS in that period wouldn’t have been reached, because we can’t take the season out to infinity. But getting above .750 looked like it was in the cards, and if he had an OPS above .753, that would have been good for third best among all NL 2Bs. Remember, that’s including his April skid.

The point of all of this? Well, it shows that the numbers certainly reflect multiple Espinosas, and the one from May 3 – Sept 11 last year is the one we want for 2013. The timing of the shoulder injury certainly lines up perfectly with the injury, and the reports from the time. So maybe we can dismiss the horrible NLDS and late Sept performance to a player who was really too hurt to hit. And for whatever reason, that exact same player showed up in April as well.

It further convinces me that whatever was happening in April was more than just a typical slump, although we may never know what was happening. It also makes me believe that if something was indeed up in April, then a healthy Espinosa is a very good second baseman, perhaps one of the best in the NL, and can be a huge asset to this team.

The question remains though, is he healthy now? And will he be healthy a month or two from now? Or should he be sent to get his surgery right away so he’s healthy for the majority of the season? I’ll get to that next time…


LaRoche Brings D, Likely Best Possible Lineup

January 8, 2013

The Nats re-signed Adam LaRoche today, getting him on a two year deal. Comparing LaRoche to the other first base options, Michael Morse and Tyler Moore, I think this is the scenario most likely to be the most successful.

The defense gets a boost with LaRoche over the other guys. On offense, it allows them to have a better lefty-righty mix, and is the most probable candidate for best lineup. Morse has the potential to hit better than either of the other guys, but he also has the potential to turn in a .320 or lower OPS, and even with more power than LaRoche, this is a hindrance to his value. Moore is still unproven as a full timer, and while I’m excited to see what he can do, I doubt its the .840 OPS he showed this year.

I’ve heard that 2012 was a career year for LaRoche, but it really wasn’t. I wrote about it at length here in October, but suffice to say it wasn’t so much better than his 2006, and slightly better than 2008 and 2009. He’ll probably end up with another strong but non-spectacular offensive 1B season. Rizzo went with best probable lineup rather than best potential lineup, and I can’t blame him for that. All that coupled with strong defense made him the best choice for this team.

The Morse Surprise

Because of this contract, it seemingly relegates Morse to the bench. It likely means that management will trade him, which makes sense in terms of building the best team. It is unfortunate to feel the need to trade such a good player who is a fan favorite, and count me as one of those fans who enjoys watching his enthusiastic play. His emergence as a true power hitter was more surprising than you may recall.

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Bryce Harper 2012 Highlights

November 13, 2012

In honor of winning the NL Rookie of the Year award, here are some highlight’s of Bryce Harper‘s first season. Enjoy, and remember, 19 year old baseball players usually have 5-10 years of improvement in front of them.

Debut Game

The Steal of Home vs. Hamels

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There is… Another

November 8, 2012

The Nats are possibly without a first baseman, or, if they shift Mike Morse, are missing an outfielder. We’ve looked at the three biggest names that have been bandied about among free agent outfielders: Hamilton, Bourn and Upton. But there is another high end outfielder that is getting significantly less airtime, and that’s Nick Swisher.

Swisher is the next position player on Keith Law’s free agent list after the three named above, sitting at #10. And there is good reason to think Swisher could really help the Nats. First and foremost is his ability to get on base. Swisher has a career .361 OBP, and over the last 4 years it’s been .367. He also has a good amount of power, averaging just over 26 HRs a season over that time. In other words, in comparison to Upton and Bourn, he’s got a better OBP and more power than both of them. He doesn’t have the bat that Hamilton has, but he also hasn’t shown some of the issues Hamilton did at the end of this season, and isn’t near the injury risk he’s played 150 or more games in each of his last 7 seasons, when he only played… 148. Read the rest of this entry »


Nats May Sign a CF, Even if They Already Have One

November 7, 2012

The Nats probably have a center fielder for next season in Bryce Harper. But there is a decent chance that they will need another outfielder, and they may not go after Josh Hamilton. Where does that leave them? Well, there are certainly some other corner outfield options, but if the CF options are better players, better hitters, should they go that way? It wouldn’t be a terrible thing to move Harper to LF and have an even better fielder out in center, as it would make quite a defensive outfield. (The Yankees did this with Granderson and Gardner the last few years and consensus was their defense was excellent out there).

Well wouldn’t you know it, there are 2 players that fit the bill for this conversation. Of course I’m talking about Michael Bourn and BJ Upton. They both play CF, they both can hit pretty well, although they have two very different strengths with the bat. They are also ranked as the #2 and #4 top free agents in the Keith Law Top 50 free agent list.

Michael Bourn

Bourn is a very talented player, and probably profiles better if you were to talk about the Nats “needs”. First and foremost, he is a speedy left handed hitting leadoff hitter. Ok, the leadoff part isn’t actually one of his talents per se, but you figure that’s where he’d play. His OBP, though, isn’t spectacular for that position, as his career line is only .272/.339/.365, although his last 2 seasons have looked better. He also led the league in steals each season from 2009-2011, and although he also lead in caught stealing from 2011-2012, his success rate is very high. A good part of his value is tied to his defense, which is really great.

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