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.

Read the rest of this entry »


USA and Gio Get a Win

March 13, 2013

Team USA started out the second round of the WBC with a big win over a strong Puerto Rico team. This was thanks in no small part to two NL East stars from last year – David Wright and the Nats’ Gio Gonzalez. Wright broke the game open in the 8th with a bases clearing double to bring a 4-1 lead all the way up to 7-1, and that was probably the hit that will be remembered from this one. But Wright had two other RBIs, one off a groundout to make it 2-0 in the third, and one off a single in the 5th to bring the lead to 3-0.

The game never got closer than a 3 run differential after that, and the biggest reason the PR team couldn’t score was Gio Gonzalez. WBC Puerto Rico US BaseballGio wasn’t brilliant, but he was very good in 5 innings. He didn’t quite hit the 80 pitch limit imposed in a round by the WBC, but hit 69 pitches made his removal in the 5th logical, and will likely keep him out of the remainder of this round.

Gio did his job and then some, striking out 5 in those 5 IP, and walking (gasp!) none. He only gave up 3 hits, and only got into any sort of trouble in the 4th, when Carlos Beltran doubled off the wall in center. After a a groundout by Yadier Molina to move Beltran to third with two outs, Mike Aviles came up and smashed the ball to RF, but Giancarlo Stanton made a great catch to rob him of extra bases, and PR of a run. Gio didn’t have all of his best stuff, according to Harry Pavlidis (Founder of Pitch Info, contributor to Baseball Prospectus & Washington Post):

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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 BABIP Question

February 28, 2013

The Nats starting pitching staff was perhaps the best in MLB in 2012. Some of that was expected, Stephen Strasburg for sure, and Jordan Zimmermann was repeating past performance. Edwin Jackson was good, and had been good before. Gio Gonzalez was a question mark, but was spectacular. And to many, especially those outside of the Nats fanbase, Ross Detwiler was a big surprise.

The question for 2013 is whether this success is sustainable. One stat that might raise eyebrows regarding Gio and Detwiler is their BABIP. BABIP is defined here - pitchers with a low BABIP in any given year are red flags, at least in your fantasy draft. Keeping in mind that a .300 BABIP, give or take, is league average, below is the list of the 16 pitchers with the lowest BABIP in 2013, using a minimum of 125 IP to weed out the relievers:

SP BABIP 125+ IP top 16

There were a total of 117 pitchers with the 125+ IP, and one thing I can tell you is I’d be worried about Jered Weaver as Cy Young candidate next year. And considering how well things went for Ervin Santana despite being #2 in BABIP, it might not be a longshot to think he’d be even worse (just based on these two stats). But let’s get back to that later, and examine the Nats that are on this list.

Gio and Detwiler are both on this list, and the first reaction is to worry. Detwiler definitely had his best year, and didn’t have very many strikeouts. The interesting thing about his numbers are that his BABIP have improved by around .020 every year. Interesting, but probably not particularly meaningful. More meaningful would be that he does rank very high on this list, and some sort of regression wouldn’t be surprising.

Gio ranked in the middle of the pack with a .287 in 2011, which isn’t exactly high. But was also low in 2010 with a .274, ranking 29th out of 122 on that same list. It may be that Gio is one of those pitchers that is an exception to the rule of pitcher’s not being able to sustain low BABIPs a la Matt Cain. Perhaps there is something about Gio that makes hitters have a tough time squaring up the ball and hitting it well. Or maybe it is just luck, and we should expect a regression.

There is a reason I listed the 16 lowest BABIPs and not the 15 – with 16, there are three Braves on this list. Does that mean the Braves are also in line for a major regression? Tim Hudson isn’t one of those guys who has a low BABIP every year, his career number of .282 is a little low, but is very far, on this scale, from .270. So should you take consolation in the fact that if Gio and Det suck, so will Hudson, Medlen and Minor? Well, sure, you could, but there’s more at play here.

The Other Factor

The one thing that goes into BABIP other than luck is team defense. Pitchers in front of great defenses tend to have good BABIPs. And according to fangraphs, guess who were #1 and #2 in team defense? The Braves and the Angels. The Nats defense ranks 12th on that list, which is above average, and relatively strong compared to those below it. And that is just one measurement. Baseball Prospectus’ defensive efficiency measurement puts the Angels at #1, the Nationals at #5 and the Braves at #7.

The defense does aid this team’s BABIP. Edwin Jackson ranked 30th, and Jordan Zimmermann ranked 47th. That’s 4/5 starters in the top half of the league. Strasburg, on the other hand, ranked all the way down at 100 out of 117. I wonder if that means he has room for ERA improvement, or if it’s hard to play defense behind him, or if players hit the ball hard when they guess fastball and actually hit it. I’m just not sure about that one.

But I am sure that while Detwiler’s BABIP is probably a sign that some sort of regression is in order, that’s not the whole story. The fact that Gio usually has pretty low BABIPs helps his case for next year. And more importantly, this team’s good defense has helped these pitchers have low BABIPs, and consequently low ERAs. The defense should should be even better in 2013 with the addition of Span, more PT for Werth, and much more time for Suzuki and Ramos.

I do not expect Detwiler to have an ERA of 3.40 again, and Gio’s 2.89 might not happen again either. But if you think that their low BABIPs relegate them to serious regression, you’re not seeing the whole story.


What about these bench players?

February 26, 2013

Tyler Moore is a great player for the Nats to have. He is a bench player who had a .840 OPS with 10 HR in only 171 PAs last season. PECOTA actually predicts him to have 13 HRs next year in 251 PAs, which is a lower rate, but still works out pretty good for the playing time.

His projected numbers for 2013 don’t look bad, unless you compare them to his 2012 numbers. But I don’t think the projections of .248/.298/.477 is that crazy for him, considering what he did in the minors. Even if he’s slightly better than that, he’s not a starting caliber 1B or LF (unless you really believe in the 2012 #s), so he’s essentially a strong bench player.

Having a strong bench is important, especially in the face of injuries, but the question is how important. If the Yankees, after the injury to Granderson, panicked and offered Michael Pineda for Tyler Moore, would you take it? Obviously, the Yankees aren’t going to do that, I’m just using them as an example.

I want to reiterate – I don’t think Pineda for Tyler Moore or Michael Morse would ever happen. But the injury got the wheels turning. At what point does the strong bench give way to something better?

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.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.