Archive for March, 2006

2006 Braves Predictions

I’ve thought about a lot of things that I’ve wanted to blog about lately, but haven’t had the time. Here are a few predictions for 2006. I have my reasons, and I may reveal them in time.

— Oscar Villarreal will pitch less than 30 innings.
— Horacio Ramirez is going to have his worst season yet.
— Lance Cormier will be the most-reliable middle-reliever in the pen.
— Chris Reitsma will be a solid set-up man or closer.
— Andruw Jones will make 2005 look mediocre.
— Chipper Jones will continue his excellent play. If he stays healthy, he is an MVP candidate.
— Marcus Giles will have an OPS of less than .800.
— Adam LaRoche will have an OPS greater than .800 (does not apply if he isn’t platooned).
— Kelly Johnson will out-hit Jeff Francoeur (assuming KJ stays healthy and isn’t sent to AAA).
— Andy Marte will out-hit Jeff Francoeur (the Indians will find room for him).
— Brian McCann will out-hit Jeff Francoeur.
— Johnny Estrada will have an OPS greater than .750.
— The O’s ERA will drop and the Braves ERA will rise. Their ERAs will be within 0.25 runs.

Addendum: Looks like Dave Pinto has called me out on my Jeff Francoeur prediction—rightly so—so I’ll at least answer why for this one. Here are the PrOPS for the Braves. Though Francoeur predicts quite well, when I published the numbers back in December I wrote the following:

Francoeur’s projection is higher than what I think he will do. Since I happened to watch most of his at-bats, I think much of his good contact was the product of terrible scouting. I’ll never forget the 0-2 change-up that dropped into the zone Odalis Perez threw him, which Jeff deposited in the bleachers. I was thinking, “how dumb can you be?” That won’t happen again this year, but he will prove his worth as a pro by his adjustments. I can’t say how he’ll do, and neither can PrOPS. The same should be said for ALL of the rookies.

I didn’t see as many problems with the other rookies. Johnson and McCann showed much better patience at the plate, and Johnson was extremely PrOPS unlucky. He was hitting line-drives right at people when he started his big-league career 0-30 (or something like that). The only question about Kelly is his arm health.

Leo’s Busy

Leo Mazzone isn’t wasting any time getting to work in Baltimore

“I think he’s starting to buy into some of the things Leo [Mazzone] has been telling him,” Manager Sam Perlozzo said.

Before Wednesday, Benson had allowed five earned runs in five innings.

“Today was a big step in moving closer to where I need to be,” Benson said.

Benson said he began to think about eliminating his curveball several days ago. After throwing in the bullpen, catcher Brandon Marsters suggested that perhaps Benson focus more on the other two pitches.

“It give me less to worry about,” Benson said.

Benson said he had previously thrown a cutter, but this winter he decided to change his grip on the pitch. When he came to spring training, Mazzone noticed the new grip was similar to that of a former pupil, Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux, whom Mazzone coached when both were with the Atlanta Braves. Mazzone made a few adjustments and now Benson has the same grip on the cutter as Maddux, a four-time Cy Young Award winner.

“If it works for him, then hopefully it works for me,” Benson said.

And if you have been impressed with Korea’s pitching performance in the WBC, check out this nugget.

Count South Korea as another team that has benefited from Mazzone’s teachings. In early January, Mazzone spent 10 days in Hawaii working with 18 pitchers from South Korea’s team. Now, South Korea’s 1.40 ERA is the lowest among teams in the Classic.

“They’ve got a lot of talent,” Mazzone said.

Mazzone needed the help of several interpreters, saying he never learned how to say “down and away” in Korean.

Sporting News on Mazzone

This article, by Dave Sheinin, in Sporting News was pointed out in the comments section, but I didn’t realize it was online.

J.C. Bradbury, an economist and sabermetrician from Georgia, published a statistical analysis in 2005 that showed Mazzone’s coaching improved an average pitcher’s ERA by 0.63 points. And pundits have speculated that Mazzone could be the first person to make it into the Hall of Fame as a pitching coach.

Just to set the record straight, I’m actually from Charlotte and I live in Tennessee. But, at least he got my name right. :-) I am certainly not complaining. Thanks Dave.

Again, we here to rumors of the Mazzone hate. I’m not sure what this is all about, but if the Braves pitching tanks this year and the Orioles improve, things could get ugly. While, if the Braves sail as usual and the O’s stink, I think Mazzone will get a pass since he’ll be adjusting to a new organization. I really don’t understand the P.R. benefits to the Braves by allowing this negative energy, even if there was some truth to it. Just say, “Leo was great, he couldn’t pass up a great opportunity, we’ll miss him, but we’ve got a heck-of-a- lot of confidence in Roger McDowell.” Is that so hard?

Baseball Hacks: A Review

Baseball Hacks : Tips & Tools for Analyzing and Winning with Statistics
Joseph Adler
O’Reilly Media, Inc.

This book started popping up for me on Amazon about six months ago. Every time I searched for a book on baseball, my cookies kept telling the folks at Amazon that I’d like this book. But why? I wondered. O’Reilly publishes computer books, what could they be doing publishing a baseball book? In fact, Baseball Hacks is a guide complete with 72 “hacks” for analyzing baseball data. Not only does it show you where to find data, but provides in-depth tools for extracting and analyzing what you get.

A few skills presented include:
– Spidering baseball data off the web, including MLB Gameday data.
– Writing Perl scripts to organize and extract play-by-play data.
– Using MySQL to make tables and extract information.
– Using R, to analyze data with linear regression and graphics tools.

Even if you are not skilled in any of these areas, the book walks you through them. The book is well-written with plenty of examples. Adler is clearly an accomplished sabermetrician with a vast knowledge of the practical tools of the sabermetrician. The book also includes small contributions from Tom Dierickx, Mark Johnson, Matthew Johnson, Ari Kaplan, Pete Palmer, and Brendan Roberts. Additionally, the book’s website has many other examples that are not in the book.

If you want to get into serious sabermetrics research, this is the book you need. And even if you already know a good bit about baseball analysis, there is plenty new in the book that you don’t know. I’ve already recommend the book to several people, and I’m sure I’ll have an opportunity to do so again soon.

Neel on The Mazzone Effect

Thanks to Eric Neel (Page 2) over at ESPN.com for linking to The Mazzone Effect. It seems like I picked a good topic to study. The press I’ve received on this is beyond embarrassing. Thanks to everyone for reading, and thanks to Leo for giving me something to study.

Thanks to Rich and John W. for pointing me to the story.

The Great Debate Continues

Rich Lederer moderates a discussion at the Baseball Analysts between three sabermetric consultants: Tom Tango (Tangotiger), Mitchel Lichtman (MGL), and Eric Van. This discuss many things of interest, including unionizing sabermetric consultants.

Baseball Musings Pledge Drive

Dave Pinto is having a pledge drive. Let’s see, Day-By-Day database, Probabilistic Model of Range, the Lineup Analysis tool…oh yeah, and he provides excellent commentary every day. Let’s keep Dave blogging full-time.

Now That’s Some Wealth Extraction

I just saw that Miguel Cabrera has signed a contract for $472,000 dollars to play for the Marlins next year. I’m not surprised nor bothered by this, given the rules of the CBA; however, I just happened to be involved in a project converting on-field performance into dollars. I found that last year’s performance by Cabrera was worth $14.57 million—only 30-times his salary for next year. Wow. When I see divergences like that, I wonder how long it will be before a new league pops up.

The Value of Sleep

This has very little to do with baseball, but I know I have a lot of student readers out there to whom this might be relevant. A few times this month I have run into serious problems in a project—it happens to be baseball-related—I have been working on, only to find the answer in my dreams. For example, last night I went to bed perplexed about a complicated problem. I had thought about the problem all day, looking at many possible solutions, but I wasn’t confident in my answers. When I woke up this morning, the answer was clear. I don’t know what happened during that black box of R.E.M., but it worked. When I was in college and grad school, I can remember studying in my dreams. I don’t know how I did it, and it wasn’t intentional.

I guess my point is, I have so many students tell me they stayed up all night studying for a test. From my personal experience, I have learned that trading off sleep to acquire extra information is not the best way to further knowledge. Maybe there is a reader out there who has studied sleep and can comment on this, but I have found sleeping to be one of the most helpful intellectual tools I employ. Now, certainly there are diminishing returns to slumber, but so too are the returns to being awake. So, the next time you are having trouble solving a problem, I suggest sleeping on it.