Posts Tagged ‘MLB’

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Can You Take The Marlins Higher?

April 16, 2010

The Yankees may have Jay-Z, LeBron James, and Me, but the Marlins have Scott Stapp.

YES.

Can You Take The Marlins Higher?
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Who is The Best Base Stealer in MLB?

March 20, 2010

After several seasons of watching Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton run amok around the A.L. East, it’s been refreshing to see elite speed on the Yankees in the form of Brett Gardner (side note: have you ever seen the actual definition of the word amok? Less mischievous and more sinister than I would have guessed. A manic urge to murder. Yikes.) As a team, the Yankees have been a better than average base stealing team for the past several years (ranking 7th in the A.L. in 2009, 4th in 2008, 4th in 2007, 2nd in 2006 and 6th in 2005). However, that’s more due to the fact that they featured so many players capable of stealing bases, with none being at an elite level. Jeter, Damon, Abreu, and A-Rod have all been capable of 20-30 steals in their time as Yankees, and both Joe Girardi and Joe Torre have been more than willing to let them run. None of those players possess the base stealing potential or the incredible speed that Brett Gardner does. While it is certainly way too early to say Brett Gardner is the best base stealer in baseball (he hasn’t even played a full major league season), his ability and potential to take that title have made me wonder just who is.

Rickey Henderson still leads the league in Rickey

Aside from the list of players above, there are a number of others who belong in the discussion: Jose Reyes (operating on the assumption that his bionic legs are intact), Jimmy Rollins, Brian Roberts, Michael Bourn, Ichiro, Willy Taveras and Chone Figgins. A few others perhaps worth mentioning but who I’m not factoring in the the discussion are Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan (like Gardner they haven’t had enough time to fully display their skills in the majors but will probably be among the best in the years to come), and Carlos Gomez and Joey Gathright (neither of whom plays enough due to other limitations to make full use of their ability… but there’s always this).

I’m going to look at the last three years worth of data, checking out the basics (stolen base totals, stolen base percentage) plus trying to figure out how well they put their speed to use. A simple (and very, very raw) way of estimating how much use these players get out of their talents would seem to be how many bases they are stealing in relation to how much they play. Now of course that is very heavily dependent on a lot of other factors (where in the lineup they bat would affect how often they’re on base with men in front of them, and could also impact how comfortable a manager would be green lighting a steal), but it should hopefully provide a rough estimate. The way I will be calculating that is:

(Stolen bases-caught stealing)/plate appearances

Unlike finding data for batting with men on base, finding data for base running with other men on base has proven to be a bit difficult, so this quick formula neglects it (as well as neglecting a ton of other factors). Even with a decent margin for error I think it will be a helpful tool in figuring out who the best base stealer in baseball is. By the way, for a running total of spring training SB’s you can click here.

The google doc is here. So, what say you dinosaur writer guy? Well, let’s look at the counting totals first, and remember everything is for 2007-2009:

In spite of all of his missed time Jose Reyes has the highest total, followed by Carl Crawford. Figgins was caught the most in the group, followed by Reyes and Upton.

Jimmy Rollins has an incredible 87.5% success rate. Upton and Figgins probably run more than they should, stealing below the magic number of 75% success.

Now as for who makes the most out of their skills. Willy Taveras is not very good at getting on base. His career OBP is a hilarious .321, easily the lowest out of of the entire group. Yet he still produces more successful steals (discounting for CS) per plate appearance than any of the others. What that’s saying is that if Taveras had even average on base ability, say somewhere in the range of .340-.350, you could be looking at a guy who steals 80 bases annually.

So who do we conclude as the best base stealer in baseball? I’m going to have to go with Taveras. Among all of the top base stealers he has the second best success rate, which he maintains even while taking off more liberally than any of the others. In a perfect world Brett Gardner turns into a base stealing clone of Rollins, Ellsbury or Taveras, hopefully getting on base more often than any of them (and playing better defense, in the case of Ellsbury). Best case scenario is that Gardner turns into a 100-110 OPS+ player who steals a ton of bases and plays excellent defense at a premium position in center. Worst case would seem to be a much better version of Gathright; a defensive replacement and pinch runner who can be valuable depending on the situation and proper use.

By the way I think manic urges to murder needs to become a more frequently used post tag. I will use it every time I write an article ranting about Mike Lupica.

thzxUnlike finding data for batting with men on base, finding data for base running with other men on base has proven to be a bit difficult.
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Swisher and Abreu Matched Up

October 15, 2009

(This was a discussion on Something Awful’s Sports Argument Stadium, which I decided to string out and further here)

Angels Mariners BaseballBy the end of the 2008 season it seemed like it was becoming obvious that Bobby Abreu wasn’t going to be back. He was 34 (now 35), with a walk rate that had declined each of the previous two seasons and a continuous and worsening absurd fear of the outfield wall. Offering him arbitration would have likely meant skipping the signing of one of the big three acquisitions last off-season, and would have handed Abreu a hefty salary that he probably didn’t deserve.

Now, that last statement was not meant to be a knock on Abreu. He’s been a remarkably consistent player, in spite of his gradual downgrade with age. But a minimum salary of near $13 million (arbitration would have resulted in a contract of no less than 80% of Abreu’s $16 mm salary) seemed like an obvious pass in the economic climate of last year. Being that Abreu only signed for $5 mm (with another million headed his way in bonuses) should tell you whether the Yankees made the right business move.

mulletguy_7In his place the Yankees acquired Nick Swisher (though it didn’t turn out Swisher would be the regular right field until after the signing of Mark Teixeira and the injury to Xavier Nady) for minor league pitcher Jeff Marquez, infielder Wilson Betemit, and the key pieces of the trade, magic beans and sexual favors. Those last bits I have assumed, because why else would a team dump a young outfielder/first baseman who OPS’d  .836 and .864 the two seasons prior to a BABIP ravaged 2008? A guy who also plays average or better defense at three positions, all while making a reasonable salary? All for a minor league pitcher yet to show any improvement on several mediocre minor league seasons and an infielder who can neither hit nor field.

Well as it turns out both Swisher and Abreu bounced back from (while not terrible) below standard seasons to have excellent 2009’s. The question I am pondering is whether or not the Yankees made the right decision in letting Abreu walk and replacing him with Swish.

I’ll assume Abreu would have gotten the minimum allowed salary via arbitration of $12.8 million for 2009 (while he only signed with LAA for $5 mm, if he were to remain a Yankee it would have been through arbitration). He in all likelihood would have made more than that, I can’t think of any instance where someone was awarded the bare minimum in an arbitration hearing, and Abreu didn’t exactly have a bad year. Swisher on the other hand made $5.3 mm for 2009 (and is signed for 2 more years plus an option year for a three year total of $26 mm). That’s a savings of $7.5 million, almost equal to the salary given to Andy Pettitte for this season. Also, by no means am I insinuating that the Yankees wouldn’t have been able to afford Pettitte if they kept Abreu, but even they don’t have an infinite bankroll. Someone else from the 2009 roster wouldn’t have been here (probably Burnett).

Abreu has been for the bulk of his career a vastly superior player to anything Swisher has ever been, but in 2009 they were near equals. In fact, Swisher probably has an edge due to his defensive advantages. Swisher was near neutral in the outfield with a total UZR of -1.9, while Abreu’s was a -4.6.

A quick offensive side by side:

                Swisher          Abreu

BA              .249                 .293

OBP            .371                 .390

SLG            .498                 .435

wOBA        .375                 .367

The biggest difference was that Swisher belted almost double the homers (29:15). Abreu’s on base advantage (due to his vastly higher batting average) creates a near wash of the two in terms of offensive output. All in all, you can’t go wrong with either player. But Swisher, for a savings of $7.5 mm, with a contract that runs potentially until 2012, and for a player who is not yet 29 years old (more than six years younger than Abreu) appears to be a better deal both this year and in the next several seasons.

The Yankees could be facing the same situation this off-season with Johnny Damon’s contract expiring. Hopefully the left field spot transitions as smoothly and successfully as the right field position did. There’s a host of possibilities for this but I’ll save those for an off-season article. There are more important things to look forward to this week! The whole point of this discussion, of course, is that Swisher and his counterpart are meeting in the playoffs starting Friday night. My gut/instincts/women’s intuition tell’s me Yankees in six. Hopefully Chone Figgins doesn’t make us his plaything like usual and the Yankees can take it in four.

Oh and just for fun, here is perhaps the best picture of A-Rod ever taken:

Just waiting for that roofie to kick in.

Just waiting for that roofie to kick in.