Thursday, February 25, 2010

I KNOW IT'S CLICHE', BUT...

All of this in a 382 word blog post by Tom Haudricourt today:

...we'll see how that goes...

...pretty much set in his ways...

...see this thing through...

...do the best he can do...

...his open-door policy...

...is a two-way street...

...a noble theory...

...the way it is...

...make no mistake about it...

... you can't let the inmates run the asylum...

...you know what they say...

...about a leopard not being able to change his spots...

...throwing out an olive branch...

 I can only shake my head.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

THE IRON PRINCE

As the debate as to whether the Brewers should sign Prince Fielder to a long term contract heats up, it will inevitably involve a discussion about his size and just how long a career he is able to have because of it.  Rob Neyer points out in an article for ESPN that "there's never been a player in the majors who was built like Fielder and enjoyed a long and productive career."  Very true.  In fact it might be more accurate to say that there's never been a person built like Prince who became a ball player.

What's not being brought up in this discussion however is the dichotomy of how incredibly durable Prince Fielder has been so far in his career.  Over the last four seasons, 2006-2009, only one other player in the Majors has appeared in more games than Fielder - Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres.  Only twice over that span was Fielder not in the starting lineup for two consecutive days, and he never sat three in a row.  Maybe more astounding is the fact over the past four years, no other player in the Majors started more games in the field than Prince Fielder has.

Games started in the field (2006-2009)

  1. Prince Fielder - 628
  2. Jeff Francoeur - 627
  3. Adrian Gonzalez - 622
  4. Orlando Cabrera - 622
  5. Miguel Cabrera - 616
(This raises an interesting question - just who is the Brewers' back-up first baseman?)

I created a table of every Major League players' weight and height from the Lahman Baseball Archive database.  I then created an index for every player as to how similar his body type is to Prince Fielder's.  The only players who were extremely similar to Prince in stature had obscure names like Chris Britton, Calvin Pickering, and (e-hem) Jumbo Brown.  But not too far down the list is a guy named Frank Thomas.  Yes, that Frank Thomas - "The Big Hurt" - the future Hall of Famer who played 155 games and hit 26 home runs at the age of 39.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

TIDBITS PART 2

Here is part two of my tidbit from the 2009 Bill James Handbook leader boards.  This time, the 2009 National League pitching leaders:

  1. Yovanni Gallardo was 3rd in the league behind Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum in opponent batting average at .214.
  2. Doug Davis and Randy Wolf were in a six-way tie for the league lead in games started with 34.  Bradon Looper was also in that mix.
  3. Randy Wolf was tied for the league lead with 16 no-decisions.
  4. Gallardo was 5th in strikeouts and second in walks.  Doug Davis led the league in walks.
  5. Dave Bush led the league with 15 hit batters.
  6. Braden Looper allowed 226 hits - 3rd in the league.  He led the league in home runs allowed with 39.  Next closest was Bronson Arroyo with 31.
  7. Yovanni Gallardo was 3rd in the league in average pitches per start with 106.7.
  8. Gallardo was 5th in stolen bases allowed.
  9. Doug Davis was 2nd in the league with 7 pickoffs.
  10. Gallardo was 3rd in the league in opponent batting average with runners in scoring position - a stingy .176.
  11. Todd Coffey led the NL with 83.2 innings pitched in relief.
  12. Trevor Hoffman was 5th in saves and 4th in save percentage.  He was 2nd in on-base percentage allowed and 3rd in slugging percentage allowed among NL relievers.
  13. Trevor Hoffman was 3rd best in the NL in on-base percentage of first batter faced.  Carlos Villanueva was 6th.
  14. Doug Davis had the 3rd slowest fastball among NL pitchers at 85.1 mph.  He also had the lowest percentage of fastballs thrown at only 25.1%.  The next closest pitcher to that was Bronson Arroyo at 42.3%.
  15. Davis and Randy Wolf each made the top ten in number of pitches thrown less than 80 mph.
  16. Yovanni Gallardo was 4th in the league in percentage of curveballs thrown.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

TIDBITS

You always find interesting little things scanning through the National League leaders in the Bill James Handbook.  Here are a few:

  1. Prince Fielder was 5th in the NL in 2009 in on-base percentage at .412.
  2. Mike Cameron was 4th in the league in strikeouts.
  3. Prince Fielder was 3rd in intentional walks with 21 but was still way behind league leader Albert Pujols who had 44.
  4. Casey McGehee batted .500 with bases loaded - 8th in the league.  He was 4th in batting average with runners in scoring position at .371.
  5. Ryan Braun was 2nd in slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers.  Prince was 4th in slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers.
  6. Ryan Braun led the National League with 9 steals of third base.  Really?  Wow.
  7. Braun also led the National League with a 1.347 OPS vs. changeups.  Casey McGehee led the league in OPS vs. sliders, and Prince Fielder was 4th in the league in OPS vs. fastballs.
  8. Prince Fielder was 2nd in the league in RBI% at 12.7% (percentage of potential runners driven in, including himself).  Jason Kendall was 7th from last with only 5.2%.
  9. Corey Hart had the 7th longest average home runs in the league at 414 ft. (ahead of Prince and Ryan Braun - neither of whom made the top 10).
I'll do pitchers tomorrow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

WINNING HIS HART

I promised myself that I wouldn't gloat and say "I told you so" when Corey Hart won his arbitration hearing.  So that's not what this is.  Even though I think I was the only person on the planet who thought he would win, I'm not going to rub it in.  No need for that.

Monday, February 8, 2010

WHEN YOU SAY BUD

Last week, wezen-ball.com published a ranking of the best bronze statues among America's ballparks. The Miller Park statues of Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, and the Workers ranked 19th on the list. With today's announcement that a Bud Selig statue is being added to the set, that's got to bump us up the list to what? 18th anyway.

Hopefully they can come up with a more flattering pose than this:

or this...

or this...
or this...
 
or this...
 


Actually, that last one would be perfect.

Is it me, or are Super Bowl ads not quite what they used to be?  Over the last five years or so, doesn't there seem to be a slow decline in both the quality and amount of hype of Super Bowl ads?  Nothing dramatic - just a slow wane.  It used to be that you'd go get a beer during the live play so you didn't miss the ads.  It's not quite like that anymore.

Wasn't it also about five years ago that Janet Jackson exposed herself during the halftime show?  Coincidence?  Did that incident scare away some advertisers?  Is there still a domino effect going on?  After all, if your competitor stopped spending hoards of money on Super Bowl advertising, why should you?  I'm just wondering.

Friday, February 5, 2010

From San Jose Mercury News: 

"Howard Stern is being considered to replace Simon Cowell when he leaves "American Idol" after this season.
Apparently Satan was out of Fox's price range."
(hee, hee, hee...)

Actually, I can't think of anyone better to replace Cowell.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

HART TO HART

By all appearances, Corey Hart is headed to salary arbitration.  He is this year's candidate to break the Brewers and Doug Melvin's streak of never having gone to a hearing.

Corey Hart is asking for $4.8M and the Brewers are offering him $4.15M.  The midpoint of those two numbers, which is important to know, is $4.475M.  This number is important because the arbitrator must decide if Corey Hart is worth more than or less than that number.  If he feels Hart is worth more, then he wins and gets his $4.8M.  If he feels he's worth less, the Brewers win and pay him $4.15M.

I have no inside knowledge of exactly how arbitration hearings work, but I would assume that the arbitrator tries to assess Corey Hart's value by comparing him to other similar players.  When you get your house assessed it kind of works like this too.  The assessor looks at what other similar houses in your neighborhood have recently sold for, averages them up, and then tries to tease apart the details that make your house different than the others and adjust the average by a little bit one way or another.  Let's do that with Corey Hart.  I'll be the assessor.  Here are Corey Hart's money stats:

Hart G HR BA SLG OPS
2007 140 24 295 539 892
2008 157 20 268 459 759
2009 115 12 260 418 753
6 seasons 521 67 273 470 795

By two different means, similarity scores on baseball-reference.com and my database of 2009 player salaries, I have identified four players that can be compared to Corey Hart.

One of the stats-based comparisons is Josh Willingham; the left fielder for the Washington Nationals.  He just signed a 1-year deal for $4.6M for 2010.

Willingham G HR BA SLG OPS
2007 144 21 265 463 827
2008 102 15 254 470 834
2009 133 24 260 496 863
6 seasons 549 87 264 478 840

An interesting note is that two of Willingham's 24 home runs in 2009 were grand slams in the same game against the Brewers on July 27.  Willingham has had a very similar to career path to Corey Hart's, but clearly outperformed him in 2009.  The fact that his contract is only slightly more that Hart's midopint ($125K) would seem to favor the Brewers.

Another statistical comparable is Jason Kubel; outfielder for the Minnesota Twins.  He is in the second year of a 2+-year deal which pays him $4.1M in 2010.

Kubel G HR BA SLG OPS
2007 128 13 273 450 785
2008 141 20 272 471 805
2009 146 28 300 539 907
5 seasons 511 71 278 474 813

Kubel's career stats compare favorably to Hart's.  He too, clearly outperformed Corey in 2009.  At the time he signed his contract, he didn't have that 28 home run season under his belt.  I think it's safe to assume that if he were negotiating this year he could demand more.  How much more?  Who knows?  But probably at least $375K more which would make his comparison favorable for Corey Hart.  Interestingly, Kubel currently is not even projected as a starter for the Twins.

There are two very interesting comparison to player's whose salaries are similar to what Corey Hart is asking for.  J.J. Hardy just avoided arbitration with the Twins by signing a 1-year, $5.1M deal.

Hardy G HR BA SLG OPS
2007 151 26 277 463 786
2008 146 24 283 478 821
2009 115 11 229 357 659
5 seasons 571 75 262 428 751

While Hart is the slightly better hitter, Hardy's value increases because he is a shortstop.  He too had a down season in 2009 but was still able to negotiate a very favorable deal with the Twins.  Advantage Hart.

Finally, Grady Sizemore; center fielder for the Indians.  He is in the middle of a 6-year deal which pays him $5.6M in 2010.

Sizemore G HR BA SLG OPS
2007 162 24 277 462 852
2008 157 33 268 502 876
2009 106 18 248 445 788
6 seasons 788 129 275 485 851

While Sizemore clearly has a reputation for being a much better player than Corey Hart, the statistical differences are not all that large.  You could argue that they are not large enough to justify the $1.125M diffence between Sizemore's contract and Hart's midpoint.

Whenever I do these types of analysis, I am always amazed at how tough they are to call.  I'm troubled by the fact that Corey Hart has had two straight downturn seasons and I still have a sour taste in my mouth over comments he made last year about prefering to play on the road.  But based on this evidence, I don't think Corey Hart's asking price is unreasonable.  The average salaries of these four comparable players is $4.85M - almost exactly what Hart is asking for.  I think the Brewers might have aimed a little low.  I would rule in Hart's favor.

(Brewers team negotiator Teddy Werner seems so confident that the Brewers will win their case that he has pulled the team's current offer off the table.  That makes you think there is more to the story.  Maybe Corey Hart's basement leaks or something.)

 
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