Thursday, December 8, 2011

Will Jim Leyland Use Octavio Dotel Properly?

It looks like the Tigers are about to consummate (with full carnal knowledge) a deal with Octavio Dotel .  According to the fine work done by Jon Paul Morosi, Enrique Rojas, and Danny Knobler, it appears to be a one year deal with a vesting option (most likely based off of 2012 appearances) for a second year.

Since I am not yet sure of the price (or the years) involved in this deal, I am not ready to declare it a good/bad/neutral signing.  However, I am sure of this much:

Octavio Dotel should be a right-on-right guy exclusively.

In 2011, Dotel yielded a .198 OBP and a .211 SLG to righties.  Against lefties, he surrendered a .345 OBP and .500 SLG.  In 2010, Dotel handled righties to the tune of .245 OBP and .331 SLG, while lefties threw up a .331 OBP and .517 SLG.  2008: .297 OBP, .355 SLG vs righties; and .422 OBP .577 SLG vs lefties.

So, in short, Doc Oc Dotel is a premier relief option vs righties and a downright liability vs lefties.  So, he profiles as a right-on-right guy who never has to face lefties.  Because of this, he will pair up nicely with Daniel Schlereth (the much maligned Tigers reliever who is quite adept as shutting down lefties [seriously, check his splits]).

Most bullpens could not afford to have a guy whose only job was to get out righties in the 6th or 7th inning, but the Tigers are blessed to have a clear 8th inning and 9th inning guy (and by "blessed" I mean that they brutally overpaid for each of those spots).  Because of this, the Tigers can afford to dedicate a roster spot to Dotel.  Furthermore, the presence of Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque (aka 'Padre K'), who can each get out both lefties and righties also allows for a Dotel-type.

Here’s hoping Jimmy Leyland understands Dotel’s strengths (and clear limitations), and uses him where he can excel – against right-handed hitters (remember him dominating righties throughout the 2011 playoffs? quote my buddy…"Dotel made a mockery of Braun in the playoffs”), and almost never against lefties.

After seeing Jimmy misuse Schlereth and Pauley in 2011, however, I fear Jimmy will overuse Dotel, negating much of his value.  So, here’s an open request to Jim Leyland…


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How are the Marlins Going to Pay for All These Players?

The Miami Marlins have now signed their third premier free agent in Mark Buehrle.  Along with inking Jose Reyes and Heath Bell, the Marlins have committed 191 million dollars to new free agents.   
This raises an important question:

How in the world do the Marlins intend to pay for all these guys?

Consider the Marlins’ payroll the last 12 years:
  • 2011: $ 57,695,000
  • 2010: $ 47,429,719
  • 2009: $ 36,834,000
  • 2008: $ 21,811,500
  • 2007: $ 30,507,000
  • 2006: $ 14,998,500
  • 2005: $ 60,408,834
  • 2004: $ 42,143,042
  • 2003: $ 45,050,000
  • 2002: $ 41,979,917
  • 2001: $ 35,762,500
  • 2000: $ 19,900,000
For 2012, the Marlins payroll is already projected to be 80-85 million.  But even that is a bit misleading, as Jose Reyes’ deal is heavily backloaded.  His deal breakdowns by year as follows:
  • 2012: 10 mill
  • 2013: 10 mill
  • 2014: 16 mill
  • 2015: 22 mill
  • 2016: 22 mill
  • 2017: 22 mill
  • 2018: 22 mill option or 4 mill buyout
Given the many signings for a team who historically has never given out too many large deals, and given the backloaded nature of Reyes’ deal, it seems clear that the Marlins are expecting massive revenue increase in the upcoming years.  This belief probably derives largely from the new stadium that the Marlins are opening in 2012. 

But, the history of sports in Florida has shown that Florida residents (for a whole host of reasons) do not tend to offer much financial support for their professional sports teams, even when they are winning.

The Rays' struggles with attendance and fan support are widely recognized, and the Rays have been a great team for three years.

Furthermore, even when the Marlins won it all in 2003, they averaged less than 20,000 fans per game.  The following year?   More of the same.

So, the Marlins are expecting massive revenue growth, but it seems unlikely to occur.  Sounds like a repeat of 1996-1997, when, even after winning the World Series, the Marlins could not keep their team together.

If anyone believes that there is good reason to expect massive revenue growth, I would love to hear it.  Because as it stands now, I am not sure where that growth will come from, other than the vague hope that Miami fans (particularly Latin American ones) will start coming out in droves.   

Yet, there is little in Marlin history (or even Florida sports history in general) to support this hope.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Introducing a New Pitching Stat: ppERA (Part 1 of 5) - Motivation

(This is Part 1 of a five part series.  Part 2 will be an explanation of ppERA.  Part 3 will feature examples.  Part 4 will discuss the benefits of ppERA.  And Part 5 will consider objections and offer replies.)

The flaws with traditional ways of measuring a pitcher’s performance (such as Wins, ERA, Saves, etc.) have been exposed through decades of sabermetric analysis.  In the place of these stats, sabermetricians offer stats such as the following:

  • FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching):  Focuses on that which a pitcher has most control of – home runs, strikeouts, and walks.  This removes that which a pitcher largely lacks control of – whether batted balls fall for hits or not
  • xFIP:  FIP with an adjustment to stabilize HR/FB rate, which studies show is not something that seems to be within a pitcher’s control
  • tERA (True ERA):  Basically, tERA calculates the runs a pitcher is expected to give up over the number of outs he is expected to get.  This is done by figuring out the run and out expectancy for each PA ending event (K, BB, HBP, HR, Line Drive, Outfield Fly Ball, Groundball, Infield Fly Ball).

There are, of course, many more advanced stats that attempt to evaluate pitcher performance.  Each stat, however, shares an important common characteristic – each one calculates only actions that end plate appearances.  Anything that happens before the final pitch of a plate appearance is ignored.

This is a strange result.

Justin Verlander threw 3,941 pitches last year.  2,485 of those pitches did NOT end a plate appearance.  That’s 63.1% of the pitches he threw.  Even for a stat like tERA, which accounts for all PA-ending events, 63.1% of the pitches Verlander threw were irrelevant for the evaluation of his performance.  And for a stat like FIP, even less of his pitches (8.48%) mattered.

Intuitively, it seems that, on average, a groundball in an 0-2 count will be more weakly hit than a groundball in a 2-0 count (and thus results in a hit less often).  If we ignore everything that happens before the groundball, we have no way of accounting for this.

Furthermore, sabermetricians correctly attempt to remove irrelevant context.  Just as a stat like ERA incorrectly rewards/punishes pitchers for Strand Rate and team defense, every advanced stat rewards/punishes pitchers for a strike or a ball happening to occur when there were already two strikes or three balls, respectively. 

In other words, sabermetricians view each pitcher-hitter confrontation as an isolated event, correctly ignoring irrelevant context such as whether there are men on base.  It is my contention that this ignoring should be extended even further.  Each PITCH should be treated as an isolated confrontation between pitcher and hitter, and count should be disregarded.  (I understand that this is a controversial claim.  I will consider objections and offer replies in Part 5 of this series).

This is my motivation for the introduction of Pitch-by-Pitch ERA or ppERA, which is really just a variation of tERA.  ppERA, however, will count every pitch that leaves a pitcher’s hand. 

It will not be my contention that ppERA should be the only stat used for evaluating pitching performance.  Rather, I believe it should accompany the other (many) stats one considers when evaluating pitchers.