Thursday, March 31, 2005

Rob's just got the previewing bug, contributing the annual Five Questions to The Hardball Times. If you thought The Los Angeles David of Peng's preview over at BTF was on the cheery side, Rob's HBT entry should prove a counterbalance.

Rob foresees no improvement for the rotation and a regression from the bullpen, and though while it seems like the latter is due to happen at some point, it can still regress a bit and maintain effectiveness.

I do part with Rob on the pessimism about the rotation, however. I think Escobar has established a new level, and though his 2005 might be a bit worse than his 2004, it shouldn't be a remarkable difference. Jarrod Washburn is what he is, and should be about an average starter. Paul Byrd projects to be an improvement over the sickly five-spot "production" Aaron Sele and Ramon Ortiz gave the club in the rotation a year ago.

That leaves two other guys. Here's a big money free agent pitcher the year before he signed with the Angels and his first year in a Halo:

Year          IP    SO    BB    ERA+
Pre-Angel 250.0 235 112 135
Angel, Yr 1 223.0 195 104 87
But wait! That's not Bartolo Colon! It's Mark Langston.

Year         IP     SO    BB    ERA+
Angel, Yr 2 246.3 183 96 137
Which pitcher was better previous to coming into Los Angeles of Anaheim? Colon had a 116 ERA+ in 2003, and his career mark coming into 2004 was 124. Langston, as revealed above, had a mark of 135 in the season before earning his wings, and had a career mark of, um, 114. Langston kind of gets shafted because he started young and for a bad team, but if you just take the three years leading into Angel year one, Langston leads Colon 128-125, which is essentially a tie.

There are, of course, differences. Langston was three years younger than Colon when he joined the Angels, and while Mark always seemed to be in tip-top physical condition, The Big Mango seems to be, shall we say, not.

But we're talking about a guy that was throwing over 220 innings a year with an ERA 15-25% better than average; even if we allow for him being older and dropping off, I still don't see how his true talent level drops off below 210 innings at about 10% better than average. He was about 10 runs below average last season; a 110 ERA+ in as many innings would be a 20-run turnaround, good for about two extra wins in the standings. I think he's capable of it.

This brings us to John Lackey. Here's que Rob dice (the stats are projected):

John Lackey (150.0 IP, 4.85 ERA, 16.8 VORP): When the first syllable in your last name is "Lack", the epithets fly fast and hard if you lose -- as Lackey did often last year. A couple good months in July and August prevented his decline into Hooverian depths of sucktitude, but he's only shown flashes of the guy who took the ball in Game Seven of the 2002 World Series. The decline here is altogether too plausible, fueled in part by a serious loss of playing time. Whether that's due to injury or incompetence, we'll leave the audience to decide.
I don't think Lackey is incompetent; I think Lackey has been the victim of bad luck.

Now, other systems agree with me, but I wanted to take another look. But for context, Jay Jaffe's DIPS page has Lackey with a 4.16 DIPS ERA last season, while the Fielding Independent Pitching reported at the Harball Times says his ERA last year should have been 4.30. So here's my independent examination of it.

I was going to look at a few seasons here, but ESPN's awful, awful site won't let me sort the stats the way I want to, so I can only do 2004. The question I'm trying to answer is: What ERA do we expect of a pitcher with John Lackey's peripherals? I ask this because his 2003 and 2004 numbers are remarkably similar:

Year   IP    BF   SO   BB   HR   H   SO/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  H/BF  ERA  ERA+
2003 204.0 885 151 66 31 223 .171 .075 .035 .252 4.63 92
2004 198.3 855 144 60 22 215 .168 .070 .026 .251 4.67 98
That's a solid K rate (the AL was around .160 SO/BF last year), a good K-to-walk ratio (the AL hovers in the mid-.080s on BB/BF), and he even has been cutting down on home runs. But he has not managed to have an ERA better than the league average, which seems peculiar.

So I took a look at 2004, and every pitcher that 150+ innings pitched, and estimated their batters faced (IP x 3 + BB + HBP + H). Then I looked for pitchers that:

1. had a SO/BF between .160 and .180;
2. had a BB/BF between .060 and .080; and
3. had a HR/BF between .020 and .040.

Here are those pitchers, minus John Lackey (remember that the BFP is estimated):

Pitcher            IP    BF   SO   BB   HR   SO/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  ER   ERA
Rodrigo Lopez 170.7 732 121 54 21 .165 .074 .029 68 3.59
Livan Hernandez 255.0 1092 186 83 26 .170 .076 .024 102 3.60
Dontrelle Willis 197.0 870 139 61 20 .160 .070 .023 88 4.02
Adam Eaton 199.3 864 153 52 28 .177 .060 .032 102 4.61
Aaron Harang 161.0 718 125 53 26 .174 .074 .036 87 4.86
Nate Robertson 196.7 870 155 66 30 .178 .076 .034 107 4.90
Javier Vazquez 198.0 860 150 60 33 .174 .070 .038 108 4.91
TOTALS: 1377.7 6006 1029 429 184 .171 .071 .031 662 4.32
Looking at the peripherals, it seems like Lackey's ERA should be about .30 lower, which jibes with the FIP mark; over the course of roughly 200 innings, that's a difference of around 8 runs, which is nearly a win.

Of course, the one factor I did not control for above was hit rate. The H/BF for the list above was .233; Lackey allowed .251 hits per batter faced, so if we take the above list and only take the guys who allowed between .240 and .260 hits per batter faced, we get:

Pitcher            IP    BF   SO   BB   HR   SO/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  ER   ERA
Dontrelle Willis 197.0 870 139 61 20 .160 .070 .023 88 4.02
Aaron Harang 161.0 718 125 53 26 .174 .074 .036 87 4.86
Nate Robertson 196.7 870 155 66 30 .178 .076 .034 107 4.90
TOTALS: 554.7 2458 419 180 76 .170 .073 .031 282 4.58
Given the hits allowed, Lackey's ERA seems about right, though this is obviously a very small sample, and I'm not sure how much we should rely on it.

As you can see above, Lackey has been very consistent in giving up hits over the last two years; one in four men he faces will get a hit. Some of those are home runs, of course, so how often does he give up a hit on a ball in play?

2003 .035 .252 .217
2004 .026 .251 .225
This figure is a bit high in the context of the league, which is an indication that he has received poor defensive support; again, this confirms what DIPS and FIP have to say.

The BTF numbers also demonstrate that Lackey is not giving up hits because he's giving up line drives; his percentage of line drives allowed is only 16.1, where the AL was at 17.7. Lackey may be suffering a bit in that few of his flyballs allowed (10.5%) are infield pops, which are caught 97% of the time, but as he's a fairly neutral groundball/flyball pitcher to begin with, it doesn't seem like that would be a big factor.

I would like to include other years in determining what peripherals lead to what ERA, but I'm confident in saying that Lackey can improve by .30 points of ERA just by having some better defensive support.

Seeing as we can expect to pick up two wins from Colon and another from Lackey, plus the expected Byrd improvement, we might get another three or four wins from the rotation in 2005 than in 2004. That would of course be a big boon, and I don't see any reason to expect Colon and Lackey not to improve. It's true that Lackey is a bit of an inconsistent pitcher, which I have not mentioned here, but I think some of that is due to random fluctuation, and is due for a correction.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sean gives the Baseball-Reference alternatives to the "Most Similar" game I played a couple of days ago. I was certainly aware of the B-R comps when I was compiling my list, but my one problem with them is that they don't include any park adjustments. I mean, Steve Finley's career OPS+ of 108 is 15 points higher than that of his highest active comp, Marquis Grissom. But it's a fun game and Sean plays it well, so check it out.

In the meantime, the Angels have acquired Bret Prinz. Prinz has a decent, though unspectacular, minor league record, and in their book the BPro guys projected him as about a league-average pitcher. That's probably better than the alternatives, and there wasn't any room for Prinz in the Bronx, so that's fine with me. The Halo Herald has some detail on Prinz and his career to this point, so go and behold.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Rob recruits Matt Welch to co-write his Angel preview, while my ol' Usenet ally David Peng flies solo at the BTF, with a little link to me inside. David sees good things in the Angel season, saying 98 wins is within reach. 98 wins! Ay caramba, I like our chances this year, but I don't know about that many wins. But I haven't really sorted through it all myself, so I don't really have an alternative argument.

Don't know yet what Rob and Matt see our record as being; only the first installment of their preview is up. Apparently co-written with Fyodor Doestoevsky, this installment complements its fine analysis with some purty purty graphs.

Both previews are superb and you would be well-served to check them out.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Do any of you remember how Bill James used to this thing where he'd list each active player's most similar player? The idea was a hypothetical: if this team absolutely had to replace a player, what active player could they replace him with without changing their team?

It's kind of a frivolous exercise, but I always thought it was kind of fun, and as I was looking at some old James books recently the idea came to me to try it with the current Angels. But whereas Bill James had a big computer database, I'm pretty much just using my head. So I don't really have a formula; I'm just looking for people of like position, relatively the same defensive quality, and maybe, if at all possible, batting from the same side. Here's what I got.

To catcher Bengie Molina, Toby Hall
Bengie's a year older, and likely better defensively. But they are comparable hitters, both free swingers with a bit of pop for a catcher, both rely on getting decent batting averages to have good years. Toby Hall is more consistent, and I think a healthy Bengie would be better, if such an entity were to exist.

To 1B Darin Erstad, Doug Mientkiewicz
I'm only considering The Punter as a first baseman here. Though the shape of these guys' performances aren't all that similar, their overall production is about the same. 4-3 has a career OPS+ of 98, while Eyechart's is 101. Of course, Erstad gains with basestealing, and his career EqA is .261 against Mientkiewicz's .263. They are both fine defenders, and were also born 15 days apart.

To 2B Adam Kennedy, Placido Polanco
This one's a cheat on a couple of different levels. Kennedy and Polanco hit from opposite sides of the plate, and Polanco has shown an aptitude for several different positions, which Kennedy has never had to do. However, they are both excellent glovemen, and were born only three months apart. Polanco has a slightly higher career OPS+ (95-91), but they have been virtually tied for the last three seasons, with Kennedy posting (in descending order) marks of 113, 102, and 98 to Polanco's 112, 101, and 99. Polanco's never really been a regular like Adam has, but his skill set is not dissimilar.

To 3B Dallas McPherson, Garret Atkins
David Wright would be a horrible match, in that Wright is younger, a better prospect, a better defender, and bats from the other side of the plate. But I know it's not Kevin Youkilis. Atkins kind of gets it by default, despite being a bit older and not striking out a hell of a lot.

To SS Orlando Cabrera, David Eckstein
I know it seems ridiculous, and it's not that great of a match, but it's the best we got. With a career 83 OPS+, Cabrera is better than a couple of guys younger than him, Alex Gonzalez of Florida and Adam Everett, and also better than a couple of guys older, Deivi Cruz and Alex Gonzalez of Other. Eck and Cabrera are only a few months agaprt in age, and though Eck has the higher career OPS+ (he has an 87), we'll go ahead and say that The OC's defense evens that gap. I don't really buy that, but it seems like the best match we have.

To LF Garret Anderson, Rondell White
In age and value, Matt Lawton is the most-similar, but the shape of their performances are so different that I can't go with him. Lawton is more into walks and has less power, whereas White is more of a slugger like GA has become. White's been a better hitter to this point in their careers (OPS+ of 111 to Garret's 107), so I'm actually giving Garret some credit for his late peak here. That seems pretty fair to me. Raul Ibanez is another candidate.

To CF Steve Finley, Ruben Sierra
I know Finley grades out poorly as a defender in center, but I also know that there's no way Ruben Sierra would be even remotely close to him. But who else is there? It ain't Barry Bonds, and Julio Franco is too old. Against Sierra, Finley has the higher career OPS+ (108-106) and EqA (.275-.265), which is just about the last thing in the world you would have predicted a dozen years ago, but there you go. Jeff Conine's a similar hitter, but is also poorly suited to center field. Another possibility is Craig Biggio, except Biggio's aged rather poorly with the bat, and was no picnic in center field, either; this doesn't even mention the fact that Biggio has been a far better hitter of his career than Finley, the last few seasons notwithstanding. In terms of offensive performance, Kenny Lofton is pretty close, though Lofton is an on-base and speed guy vs. Finley bashing. Okay, Lofton and Biggio are likely better picks than Sierra, but I can't figure out which is best. The choices on 39-year-old guys are pretty limited.

To RF Vlad, Lance Berkman
Yes, that's how good Berkman is, or is when he's not ripping up his knee playing flag football. Berkman actually has a slightly higher career OPS+, 148-147, and also a slight EqA lead, .319-.315. These are virtual ties. Vlad's got over 1000 more plate appearances, so he's been more valuable over the course of his career, but in terms of value right now (ignoring the injury question), Berkman is the closest thing to being in Vlad's ballpark. It's true that Berkman has much more patience at the plate than Vlad, but there isn't anyone who combines Vlad's seeming recklessness with his amazing production, though Nomar through age 28 was pretty close. The better a player is, the harder it is to find an excellent match.

To DH Jeff DaVanon, Brian Buchanan
They are both 30 years old. DaVanon's career OPS+ is 105, Buchanan's 102. The lead is actually bigger in EqA, .270-.263. The reason is that DaVanon's OPS is OBP-heavy, while Buchanan's is bigger on slugging. Buchanan also isn't as viable in center field as DaVanon is. But they are withing 17 career plate appearances of each other and have rather similar production, so it's a decent match.

To UT Chone Figgins, Ryan Freel
Freel's actually about two years older, but they both play a lot of positions and have been roughly league-average hitters to this point in their careers. Both broke out as starters last year, each posting a 101 OPS+. Freel has actually been a better basestealer than The Legs, stealing 48 bases in his career at a 76% success rate against Figgins' 49 and 70%.

Dunno if I'll get to pitchers, and I know the Finley entry is absurd beyond belief, but, hey, it's a game ...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

So Clutch DaVanon's gonna bat second, and everyone rejoices. As well they should.

But why the hell is Darin Erstad batting leadoff instead of The Legs?

Darin Erstad has a career OBP of .344, but turns 31 in June and has posted marks of .309 and .346 the last two years.

Figgins' career OBP is .346, he's coming into his age 27 seeason and his OBPs the last two years have been .345 and .350.

So of course The Punter gets to bat leadoff and Figgins gets to be "the second leadoff guy" while batting ninth.

My only possible good spin on this is that if Erstad leads off, he may recognize his role as being that of a table-setter instead of a guy who grounds out to second on purpose. Because, let's acknowledge facts, the best leadoff candidate on the active roster right now is DaVanon. His career .348 OBP is in the same range as the other two guys, but over the last two years he's been exceptional, posting marks of .360 and .372. He's an excellent baserunner and stealer to boot ... of course, that is also true of Erstad.

However, if by some chance leading off gets Erstad to alter his approach for the better, maybe it does make sense to bat him there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

By Sean at Purgatory Online.

The LA Times has an article on Old Man Salmon today; there's nothing really new here at all.

However, it does remind me that I never got through all my player reviews in the offseason, what with distractions from PMR and from work. So let's go express round; we had two more position players and all the pitchers, so let's get a-crackin':

He's not really a .340 hitter, but will still be a useful guy off the bench.

Probably done; here's hoping he can make it back for a farewell tour as a Halo.


Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.

Is going to continue being a great set-up man, as long as his nose stays together, but I would expect some decline from his first couple of years.

Better than Scot Schoeneweis.

This is what happens when you stop jerking talented pitchers in and out of roles. I would expect him to be roughly as good as last year, maybe with the ERA creeping a bit over 4 instead of staying a bit under. Either way, there's no way he could get less luck on the run support side, and could easily be a 15-17-game winner with the breaks.

A solid middle-innings guy; he's good, but if he's pitching in a set-up role too often, we're in trouble.

A step down from Kevin Gregg.

One of the unluckiest pitchers in the league last year, in terms of defensive support. I think he's poised for a semi-breakout; of course, I thought the same thing a year ago. His last two seasons have been exceptionally similar in both ERA and peripherals, so maybe that's just his talent level. But I think some of the hits he's given up are due to become outs one of these years.

If Heidi Klum's body were a pitch, it would be K-Rod's slider.

Could/would/should be in the rotation, but is "too valuable" to be moved from the bullpen. C'est la vie. He'll be a great 6th/7th inning guy, and pitch the team out of quite a few jams in the process. Given the lessened depth we have in the pen this year, he likely is more valuable in that role. Also: if you had to pick one Angel pitcher that was likely scuffing the baseball, wouldn't you pick Shields? The movement on his fastball is unnatural and frightening.

I still like the guy, but I'm growing weary of his antics on the mound. His K rate was down again last year, and he didn't have a Spring Training incident to fall back on. He was great to watch in 2002, going all ballsy with his fastball 98% of the time. But the velocity's just not there like it was then, and there's a fine line between ballsy and BP. He says he feels good again on the mound, and if he can really throw like he used to, I think another excellent season is in reach. That's a big "if", however.

Halofan has packed his things to head over to SportsBlogs and start up Halos Heaven. He also has apparently been ordained.

Sidebar appropriately updated ...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Thank God for Ross Newhan making the LA Times sports section readable. Today he gives us a nice article on Preston Gomez, who has served as consigliere for the Angels for the last 24 years.

Newhan uses Gomez as an entry point into how alleged baseball fan Fidel Castro has succeeded in severely limiting the number of Cuban-born ballplayers who can play in the States. Though it might seem that this is a minimal crime compared to some of Fidel's others, the restriction on emigration is central to the paranoid control Castro exercises over the country; it's the same sort of thought process that leads to the suppression of free speech, the denial of legitimate elections, and other violations of human rights.

Gomez, like so many Cubans that have been dispersed since the revolution, mourns what Cuba has become, and rightly points out that the country suffers from its native players being barred from returning home: "In almost every case, the players who defect want to come back and live in their homeland, play in their homeland, during the winter .... If the Hernandez brothers [Orlando and Livan] were allowed to pitch against each other in Havana during the winter, 50,000 people would be there. Baseball should be a resource in Cuba. Instead, players are finding ways to leave, and Cuba gets nothing in return."

I have no desire to turn this into a political discussion of the whys and wherefores of US-Cuba relations, and will not comment on same; but Preston Gomez turns 82 years old one month from today, and there are certainly others of his age and experience who may not live to see their home country become prosperous and free. We can only pray that Gomez and others like him out-live the oppression of their homeland, and can witness a turn for the better.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Well, today is my One Year Blogiversary. And it just happens to be the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar. So let's look at injuries, shall we?

- Matt Hensley may be out 3-4 weeks. This opens up a pen spot, but I'm not that worried about it. Okay, if the final spot is taken by Eric Cyr, I'm worried. But Scott Dunn, Dustin Moseley, whoever ... it's the last guy out of the pen, and if that guy ends up making a difference, the Angels have bigger problems.

- Meanwhile, are we ever going to a Molina on the field? Svelte Bengie is being held out for mere precaution, per Mike Scioscia, but whither Jose? It looks like The Indispensable Josh Paul might actually prove useful.

- Good news: Kelvim looks and feels good after throwing 30some pitches.

Friday, March 11, 2005

I'm doing a couple of fantasy leagues this year, and need some players. You can read the details in the second entry here. Just drop me an email if you're interersted in either one.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Dallas McPherson is off to see a back specialist.

But it's fine: "[McPherson] has experienced tightness and soreness in his lower back, but he's been able to do most activities outside of swinging a bat or throwing." [emphasis mine]

Oh, good. Very reassuring. We sure don't need him to swing a bat or throw this year.

Here's hoping it's not serious.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I'm sorry, but the idea of John Sickels writing an article for Future Angels is about the least predictable thing ever. I'd have thought you were as likely to see that as to see The Nation run a cover story entitled "George W. Bush: The Greatest Genius of All Time."

So kudos to Future Angels for affording Sickels the space. He takes the time to write about Dallas McPherson. Not much new info for hardcore fans, but Sickels does present various projections for Mac's performance. The worst is Sickels' own 265/320/490 line, but it still seems a bit high to me. I'm worried about his strikeouts and deteriorating walk rate, but maybe I'm just a pessimist.

Trolling around Fanhome, I came across a link to the blog of someone named Dan Fox, who has been doing some interesting work with baserunning. You can read about his method here, and you can check out 2004 results for players and teams (not so hot for the Angels) and individual leaders for 2003 and 2004. There are a number of caveats involved, but the approach is very interesting, and worth checking out.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Today the LA Times prints its annual article on the subject of Darin Erstad being valuable even though he doesn't put up good statistics.

Some choice quotes:

Erstad: "I'm the first to admit, I feel I've underachieved the last few years. My power numbers haven't been where they should be. I should hit 20 home runs and 35 doubles every year. But I'm not going to jeopardize this team for the benefit of personal statistics."

And: "I know my power numbers are not on par [with other first basemen], but making productive outs is more important to me. The 'Moneyball' approach is a different philosophy, a strong philosophy. I don't walk a ton, and my on-base percentage isn't as high as it should be. But I also roll about 30 ground balls a year to second base, getting runners to third."

(All emphases are mine.)

This is a curious line of thinking, to say the least. There is somehow this notion that racking up gaudy OBP and SLG numbers is a selfish act that can hurt the team; nothing could be further from the truth.

In other sports, particularly sports like basketball or metric football, a selfish player can damage the team by hogging the ball and scoring opportunities for himself. But in baseball, the most individual of team sports, the team does not suffer for one man driving in runs. Everyone benefits.

Darin Erstad literally thinks it's his job, if he comes up with a man on second with no one out, to ground out to the second baseman and advance the runner. That is not what a major league hitter should consider his job. He should be looking to drive the ball and get the run in -- and advancing the runner via an out is a consolation, it's making the best out of the worst alternative.

Let's say you have a runner on second and no one out. In descending order, and neglecting fielder errors, what are the most preferable results from the plate appearance?

1. Home run
2. Triple
3. Double
4. RBI single
5. Single with runner holding at third
6. Walk (or infield single on which runner cannot advance)
7. Single with runner being thrown out at home
8. Making an out that advances the runner to third
9. Making an out that does not advance the runner
10. Lining into a double play

Erstad's sense of "unselfish play" is to skip straight to the eighth-best result. Does that make any sense to you?

Now, sure, I'm sure you can say, "Yes, but if he tries for a home run, it increases his chances of striking out" or something. Yes; but I'm not saying he should go up there looking for a home run. I'm saying he should go up there, looking for a ball to hit hard and preferably pull -- or just to the left of the shortstop. If you do well, you have a hit and probably an RBI -- and that's obviously good for the team. And if you fail and make an out, you have probably done so in a way that can advance the runner, making the most of the out. But the out should not be a concession.

As you might guess I have no major league playing experience, you might suspect I am full of hot air on this. I have discussed this in passing before, so I'll just point you there. (It's the second bullet point.)

In case you're wondering, Erstad really did make 30 "productive outs" last year, which is better than making nonproductive outs. Erstad says, "I could lay down a bunt and sacrifice, and my average would be better." So let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say that each of those 30 productive outs could have been sacrifice hits. What then?

Instead of hitting 295/346/400 for an OPS+ of 95, he would have hit 314/367/426 for an OPS+ of 108, which would have ranked ahead of six regular AL first basemen, whereas his actual 95 ranked ahead of only one. Of course, that's assuming that no other AL 1B would get to benefit from this game. I mean, Scott Hatteberg had 18 "productive outs," so if you give him those 18 plate appearances back he moves from 284/367/420 with an OPS+ of 104 to a 293/378/434 with an OPS+ of 110.

I'm all for thinking of the team first, and being an unselfish teammate. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that, in baseball, team success is built on individual achievement. Darin Erstad knows that his OBP and SLG should be higher; I would love to see him do something about it.

UPDATE: I had some interesting comments, but no real room in the comment section to respond, so I'm doing it here.

To respond to The Alchemist:

I think that in almost all situations, 1st & 2nd with no out is better than man on 3rd with one out.

I was looking for a recent Run Expectation Matrix; here's one from 2003, which says that the average team will score 1.0303 runs for every time they have a runner on 3rd with one out, but will score 1.5384 for every time they have 1st and 2nd with no outs.

Tango Tiger has some interesting data for 1999-2002. Take a look:

              % of time team scores X runs
Bases Outs 0 1 2 3 4 5+
1,2 0 57 16 11 9 4 3
3 1 34 48 11 5 2 1
So, getting the runner to third will increase your chance of scoring one run, but cut down on big inning potential. There are some situations where you might want to do that, of course. So you could go ahead and revise my list for those specific situations where one run is particularly significant.

An anonymous commenter wonders how, theoretically, putting Finley at 1B and Erstad at CF would affect things. We can only guess, but it's spring training, so let's have fun and try.

I say Darin Erstad projects to be roughly -10 runs offensively against average this year, and Steve Finley projects to be +2.

Now, we should also adjust for position in some way. I am partial to using Tango Tiger's positional adjustments, derived for UZR. This is by no means universal, but I like them.

Using the adjustments, we find that a full-time CF is +5 runs better defensively than a generic defensive player, and that a 1B is -9 runs. So, with Finley in CF and Erstad at 1B, we have Finley up to +7 with Erstad at -19.

But we have yet to take into account the quality of their defense. Erstad, of course, is a very good defensive 1B. How good? I don't know, but from David Pinto's PMR we can divine that he was about +24 above an average 1B defensively last year, which would project up to about +30 for a full season. Let's keep it conservative and estimate him at +25. That gets him up to +6 overall.

Finley's defense is something of a question, but few statistical methods are saying he's good; the question seems to be "Is he bad or just mediocre?" Using PMR we find that he was roughly -6 a year ago. I know UZR takes a harder line on him, but he was -6 by Baseball Prospectus' figures, as well, so I think that's a reasonable estimate.

So Finley was +7, and we take off 6 for the quality of his defense, so he's at +1.

So Finley and Erstad together are roughly +7 runs above average. What a bargain!

But what if we put Erstad back in CF? His offense is still -10, but now he gets a 5-run boost for being a CF to get him to -5. He's a very, very good CF, and should be worth about 20-25 runs against average defending that position. Let's stay conservative and give him +20; that will get his overall total up to +15.

Finley, we said, was +2 offensively. We take off 9 for playing 1B and get him to -7. The question becomes, "How is his defense?"

If Steve Finley would be an average 1B, moving him doesn't really make any sense, because he'd be at -7, and with Erstad a +15 in center, that gets us to +8, which is virtually identical to what we got with Finley in CF and Erstad at 1B.

If Finley were to be a bad 1B, the move would be counterproductive. Finley would, theoretically, have to be an excellent defensive 1B for the move to balance out.

I wouldn't have advocated contemplating such a move even if this back-of-the-envelope said it should, so the fact that even looking at it in a cursory and nonsophisticated manner indicates that it's not likely to be a great idea ... of course, there many, many big assumptions even in this, especially in the difference between Finley's offense and Erstad's offense, so I would hardly go by this quick analysis being The Truth.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

- Rob links to an article that indicates the Angels are threatening to let Jered Weaver re-enter the draft. Let's hope this is just a negotiation ploy, and not for real. The Angels knew very well what the stakes were in drafting Weaver, and that Boras would be demanding big dollars. If they can't find a compromise, they've wasted a first-round pick for no real reason. Why draft an expensive player if you're not willing to pay?

- Doesn't it seem like someone should have made sure Kendry Morales' visa problems were cleared up by now? The last lines of this article, which I also picked up from Rob, say, "As the Angels await the arrival of Cuban defector Kendry Morales, their biggest concern is not knowing exactly when his lawyers in the Dominican Republic initiated the process of acquiring a passport. Such a process can take as long as three months, so if it did not begin until after he agreed to terms with the Angels on Dec. 1, Morales' arrival could be delayed further."

Tell me if I'm missing something ... it can take three months. He signed December 1. Let's say he files for a visa on December 2. One month: January 2. Two months: February 2. Three months: tomorrow. So shouldn't it be imminent, in the worst case?

Shouldn't the Angels have instructed Kendry's representation to get the visa process moving ASAP upon signing? Maybe they did, and this delay is not their fault. But if Morales isn't in camp in the next couple of days, someone really dropped the ball.

- The Halosphere is talking about how the Angels aren't offering K-Rod a multiyear contract yet. I was all set to get angry about this -- it seems like a good idea to lock him up now before his price goes up -- but in reviewing the articles it seems like a total nonstory, as though the beat writers just went to K-Rod to ask him about it so they would have something to worry about. If I were K-Rod, I'm not signing until after 2005, anyway, so this is a nonissue.

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