Archive for Hitting

More Predicting the HOF

J.C. Zannis continues his HOF series. He looks at who’s in that shouldn’t be and who should be in (including active players).

Winning and Hall of Fame Induction

J.C. Zannis of The Cat’s Cradle has started a series of posts looking at factors that influence Hall of Fame induction for hitters. As a base for his analysis he uses my very basic model.

Last year JC Bradbury at Sabernomics created a list of position players who are not in the baseball hall of fame, but should be (more recent update here). I was intrigued by the list, but felt that, fair or not, winning and postseason success likely factor into voters decisions. I also wondered whether traditional stats such as hits and home runs might not predict voter behavior better than linear weights (about which voters are likely poorly informed).

The project became a bit long for one post so I’ll do it in parts. The next post (part 2) will compare model specifications and provide lists of players who are not enshrined, but best match the players already in the hall. Next I will look at hall of famers who had the lowest probability of induction and current or recently retired players who have the best chance of induction. Finally I may look at how changes in productivity would have affected players’ hall of fame chances (e.g. what difference would an additional all-star caliber season have made for Dale Murphy). For the last section I’m happy to take suggestions.

In his second post he finds something very interesting.

The real difference between [Bradbury's basic model] and [a model that includes the average winning percentage of a players teams as well as a dummy variable indicating whether he won a world series] shows up when comparing players. [The latter model] was particularly harsh on Professor Bradbury’s favorite player, Dale Murphy. According to it, Murphy’s chances were hurt by his lack of a World Series ring and the .443 winning percentage of the teams he played on.

It’s a shame, but I’m not surprised about the impact of team quality. I’m looking forward to the next two parts. I like what he’s doing here.

Reviewing PrOPS

About a year ago, I published an article on my PrOPS system in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. While the article did get some positive media attention (here, here), I occasionally run across skeptical comments from baseball fans. Some people feel the system hasn’t been tested, but that’s incorrect. The fact is, the PrOPS formula is derived from observed correlations in past data. And I reported the results of how well the formula captures over/under performance in the article.

There is a highly statistically significant relationship…between a player’s over/under performance and his decline/improvement. And the greater the the deviation between PrOPS and OPS, the larger the reversion is the following season. For every 0.01 increase/decrease in a player’s over/under performance, his OPS is likely to fall/rise by 0.008 the following season. For example, a player with an OPS 10 “points” above his PrOPS, can expect his OPS to fall by eight points in the following season. That is quite a reversion.

I also generated lists of the top-25 over and under performing season from 2002-2004. And what happened to them?

Of the top 25 over performers, 20 players had lower OPS in the following season.

Of the top 25 under performers, 21 improved their OPS in the following season.

The article also lists the top-25 over and under performers for 2005. What happened to those players in 2006?

Of the over performers, 12 players declined, 7 improved, and 6 did not deviate more than 20 OPS-points from the previous season. Of the under performers, 11 players improved, 7 declined, 3 had no change, and 5 didn’t garner serious playing time. It’s not an air-tight projection system, but there seems to be some information there.

PrOPS is not a stand-alone projection tool. You should not look only at a player’s PrOPS and assume it’s exactly what the player should be doing. When I look at it, I also consider the player’s recent hitting history, injuries, aging, and all that other stuff we sometimes use to evaluate hitters. But when I see a player have a career year, and his PrOPS don’t show it, I start to get suspicious.

If you’re curious about the over/under performers of 2006, see The Hardball Times.

NL over performers
NL under performers
AL over performers
AL under performers

Baseball Awards

Again, I find myself having to apologize for not posting. I actually had planned to be writing a lot this week, but a few things just fell in my lap. I’ve got a book review or two on the way, and I’m going to do some more season-in-review stuff soon. I promise.

So, for those of you who are checking in, I’m going to dole out my 2006 awards (see the Internet Baseball Awards at Baseball Prospectus).

NL
MVP: Albert Pujols – just ahead of Brandon Webb and Ryan Howard.
Cy Young: Brandon Webb – the second most valuable player in the majors.
ROY: Josh Johnson – edges out teammate Hanley Ramirez.
MOY: Tie, Everyone not named Joe Girardi – if you’re going to butt heads with your GM, make sure he’s not Larry Beinfest.
GMOY: Larry Beinfest – one of the best, who hasn’t gotten much credit for his work with a tiny budget.

AL
MVP: Travis Hafner – How good was Travis Hafner? So good that he beat out David Ortiz with 123 fewer plate appearances. And he didn’t even make the All-Star team.
Cy Young: Johan Santana – just edges out John Lackey.
ROY: Justin Verlander – the popular choice, Francisco Liriano, come in second.
MOY: Jim Leyland
GMOY: Tie, Terry Ryan and Mark Shapiro – Both put together good teams on small budgets. The Twins keep doing what they do. Cleveland played much better than their record. I’m looking out for a monster 2007 Indians squad.

Francoeur Game Winner

The other day someone asked me “Who won the Francoeur Game?” Sorry, it’s taken me so long to get to this. I’m having a very busy October. I am hopeful that I will finish up a big chunk of work before November. I have a lot I want to say about the 2006 season, and I’ll get to it as quickly as I can.

Anyway, I won the game on OPS with a projection of .260/.275/.465 ==> .740 OPS. Francoeur finished with a .260/.293/.449==>.742 line. However, I think Chris Constancio’s projection was the best (.257/.295/.458 => 753 OPS) because he nailed the higher OBP and lower SLG. My prediction just happened to cancel out just right.

If you’re not familiar with Chris, he runs the website FirstInning.com, and I’m a big fan. Given that his projection was so close this year—and he made his projection before the season started—I’m a bit worried about his prediction of Jeff’s future.

2007: .263/.301/.468 ==> .769
2008: .264/.303/.475 ==> .778

Francoeur Game Update

With a week to go in the Francoeur game, I thought I’d give a little update.

On May 19, I predicted Jeff would finish the season with the following line:

.260/.275/.465 ==> .740 OPS

Several others chimed in with their estimates. All, except for one person who seconded my projection, predicted that Jeff would finish above this. Well, here’s how Francoeur stands with a week to go:

.258/.290/.437 ==> .727 OPS

There’s still time for improvement, but not much. Jeff played out of his head in 2005. In my opinion it was a perfect storm of lucky bounces, poor scouting, and good performance. Next year is going to be a pivotal season. I hope the Braves will stress improvement rather than continuing to hype him as their next star.

I’ll be looking back at some of my other not-so-accurate predictions soon.

Marcus Giles Is Standing Up

A college buddy of mine used to always be the butt of the joke whenever having his picture taken. “Stand up, Rob” someone would always say. And you see that was supposed to be funny because he wasn’t sitting down, just shorter than everyone else. (You’re right, that’s not very funny.) I’m sure Marcus Giles has heard it during every team picture he’s posed for, because it’s a really old joke. Though Marcus is short in stature, he has a reputation for carrying a big bat, that is, until this year. For the previous three seasons (all as a full-time player) he’s posted OPS of .921, .821, and .826; not bad for a second basemen.

His 2006 season hasn’t gone so well. After getting off to a slow start, he’s posted an OPS of .756. Early on, some Braves fans attributed his drop-off to going off steroids (jerks). Others suggested the premature birth of his second child during spring training slowed him down. I have my own theory: Marcus is the exactly the same. Here are Marcus’s last four seasons in OPS and PrOPS.

Year      OPS       PrOPS
2003      .911       .825
2004      .819       .774
2005      .831       .750
2006      .756       .776

Mean      .829       .781

Marcus has been a bit hit-unlucky in 2006, but his OPS is closer to his PrOPS lines of the previous seasons than his previous OPS. Also interesting is that prior to the 2006 season, I projected OPS for all MLB players. The model predicted Giles would hit .776. It’s partly an eerie coincidence that his PrOPS is exactly what the model predicted, but the point is that though Marcus Giles is a decent offensive second baseman, he hasn’t been as good as his numbers. Furthermore, he’s hitting the ball this year the same as he always has, and the on-field results reflect this even though he’s hit a little better than his numbers indicate.

What does this mean for PrOPS? Not much. I’m just screwing around with the numbers of one individual. The model isn’t nailing every player. However, when I tested the model on past seasons, it predicted reasonably well.

What does this mean for Marcus Giles? Don’t ask him to stand up, he already is.

Addendum: Jeff at SwingTraining notes that Marcus is literally standing up more now than he used to.

Albert on Andruw

Jeff Albert of SwingTraining.net, whom you may remember for his video analysis of Jeff Francoeur (Part 1|Part 2), is this week’s DH at The Baseball Analysts. In his two part series, he takes a look at Alex Rodriguez and Andruw Jones.

Let me just say that this is just really cool, and Jeff is doing some great stuff. I don’t understand the mechanics all that well, but these pictures show the power that Andruw gained in 2005 (on the right).


AJ at the plate

Jeff’s analysis is very interesting, too.

We see in the side view that his weight and upper body are distributed more toward his front leg which will provide a more stable base (as described in part 1). The description of spinning hips in part 1 also asserted that good movement into the front leg will help keep the front hip from “pulling off” (remember the pen example?). Judging by the stripe on his pant leg in the front view, this is the case for Jones. I do not imagine that Jones hit 22 more HRs because he had became significantly stronger over the off season, but he did figure out a way to get more out of what he already had. Strength is relatively useless if it is not applied through an efficient swing.

We now have an idea about the new position he was in that enabled him to hit with more power, but there has to be a reason why his position in 2005 is better than 2004. This is another area where the front view is helpful because it shows Jones with a little more flex in the knees and more loading in the area of his hips and upper legs. If you want to get a feel for it, stand straight up with your feet directly under you. You can stand there all day because your muscles are basically doing nothing. Now spread your feet out and squat slightly and there will be much more tension created by active muscles that are now working to support your stance. When you do a squat in the gym, this is why it is much more difficult to get up from the bottom of the squat than it is to just stand straight up with the bar across your shoulders. It’s the difference between your muscles being eccentrically stretched/loaded as opposed to doing nothing.

This general comment on hitting is also quite useful for analyzing all hitters.

The real significance of adjustment for A-Rod’s and Jones’ adjustments has much less to do with how far they are moving forward or how wide their stance is and much more to do with how those things allow them to initiate the swing. A-Rod and Jones can change their stance, stride, or anything else they want as long as they are prepared to launch their swings like they did in 2005. Once this is established, the right phrase or thought can bridge the gap between graphic details and actual on-field adjustments that produce major league results.

Keep up the good work, Jeff.

Do Southpaws Get a Fair Shake in MLB?

There have been a few blog posts recently on a new NBER article Handedness and Earnings (Everyday Economics, Marginal Revolution, and Greg Mankiw). The general results are reported in The Washington Post.

“Among the college-educated men in our sample, those who report being left-handed earn 13 percent more than those who report being right-handed,” said economist Christopher S. Ruebeck of Lafayette College. Ruebeck and his research partners, Joseph E. Harrington Jr. and Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins University, reported the findings in a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

However, it’s interesting that there is no concrete theory as to why this gap exists, and why it occurs in men but not women.

While evidence of a wage gap was unequivocal, explanations for the disparity proved more elusive. Differences in biology and brain function are two possibilities. Nor do the researchers know why they didn’t see a similar effect among women.

Tyler Cowen hypothesizes that there is something special about being left-handed, which I think fits with the conventional wisdom.

Left-handers have idiosyncrasies, obsessions, and downright insanities which lift some of them into productivity heaven.

But I’m curious. Left-handedness is not something traditionally viewed positively by society. The Latin term for left is sinister. Are modern day lefties overcoming a past bias and now surpassing righties?

Anyway, I wanted to see how left-handedness plays out in baseball. Because handedness plays a role in the success of players—because of the platoon effect— I had to be careful to control for other characteristics.

So, I went to the trusty Lahman Baseball Database and looked at all batters from 1985-2005. I estimated the impact of hitting performance, age, and handedness on yearly earnings of free agent eligible players using multiple linear regression. Also, I used a sample of only pure left-handed and right-handed players, taking out all switch hitters and players who throw and bat with opposite hands. Here is what I found.

Left-handers earn about $225,000 less than right-handers, but the difference is not statistically significant, meaning the estimate is within the expected variation. However, that’s nearly 6% less than the average player in this sample, which is nothing to sneeze at. But, more importantly, there does not seem to be evidence of lefties earning more than righties among hitters. This certainly isn’t perfect, and I can think of a few problems. The main weakness is that lefties are barred from playing four defensive positions: catcher, third, shortstop, and second. Because I’m using only offensive stats, equally good-hitting lefties may not be as valuable as righties. I’ll post the results below if you’re interested. I’m not sure what it means about why left-handers earn more in the general workforce, but this doesn’t seem to hold for baseball hitters. Maybe I’ll do pitchers next.

Variable	Coefficient	T-stat
AVG		$10,800,000	4.21
Walk Rate	$13,300,000	6.17
Iso-Power	$11,600,000	9.07
Left-Handed	-$225,676	-1.35
Age		-$297,196	-0.81
Age2		$4,337		0.79
R2		.51 
(year effects and constant not reported)

Addendum: See Part 2 for analysis of pitchers.

Breaking Down Frenchy’s Swing

Jeff at Swingtraining.net uses video to break down Jeff Francoeur’s swing, using Manny Ramirez as a comparison. Here are some interesting findings, but you’ll need to visit the site, which is excellent, to see the video.

This is a good time to distinguish quickness from bat speed. Notice they arrive at the ball at the same time, however, since Francoeur plants his foot earlier, this is an indication that he has to get his bat going earlier in order to get to the same spot (contact). Again, Francoeur generates all kinds of bat speed, it is just taking him a little too long to do so. This opens the door to conversations about his plate discipline, etc. Very conceivable from this video example that Francoeur could be a player who hits for a lot of power, along with a lot of K’s and not many walks. The longer it takes a player to execute his swing, the less time he has to decide whether or not to swing. In other words, a quicker swing allows a player to see a pitch longer, committ later, thus allows him to make better decisions on whether to swing or not. A quick swing that generates significant bat speed, like Manny, affords the opportunity to hit for power and average…and who doesn’t love that?!

And what about the anatomy of the swing?

Francoeur’s hips are MUCH farther open. WAAAAY farther open. And also notice the angle of his bat. While I have nearly 3000 clips of MLB hitters, this bat angle at time of footplant is by far the most horizontal, bat head pointing towards pitcher, that I have seen – and there really is not anything else like it that I remember seeing. Again this shows how much bat speed he is generating, since he does catch up by contact, but look how much farther his bat has to travel. No wonder he has to start his swing early! The lower body really just looks like it gets the heck out of the way so he can whip it through with his arms. I buy that he has a 4 handicap – would love to see him hit a few off the tee!

Long story short – it takes Francoeur too much time to create his bat speed. More efficiency means a quicker swing with minimal, if any, loss in bat speed.

I’m not sure whether this is encouraging or discouraging for the future, but it’s very interesting. Either there is a quick fix or he has an unsolvable problem. I think it explains why he gets hit so frequently. He’s got to start early on high and inside pitches and doesn’t have time to get out of the way.