Thursday, May 12, 2005

... to our pathetic homestand is to ignore it, and talk about something else.

Interesting little article by Sabernomics' JC Bradbury at The Hardball Times. JC takes play-by-play data from batters to figure out what a batter's OPS should have been. The article explains it better than I can, but basically it seems like JC takes a batter's line drives, flyballs, grounballs, home run park, etc., and runs a regerssion to determine how many of each hit he should have had, and thus can formulate a "Projected OPS" for that batter.

It's important to note that, by JC's own admission, this is a work-in-progress. Theoretically, having such a measure might indicate to us what batters have been hitting in exceptionally good or bad luck. As an example, here are the top two "over-performers" in the majors in 2004 -- PrOPS is this "Projected OPS" figure and PrOPS+ is the amount of points in OPS by which the batter exceeds the PrOPS Estimate.
Player   OPS  PrOPS  PrOPS+
JT Snow 958 846 +112
Ichiro! 869 774 + 95
Okay. First you see Snow, so you think, "Hey, that guy probably was a bit lucky last year." But then you see Ichiro!, and you note that one thing this measure is missing is the fact that speedy players are often going to get more hits than they "should" have based on their number of groundballs, etc. Ichiro! obviously gets hits on groundballs at a higher rate than most humans; in fact, that's a large part of his game.

So you have to use common sense here, and since it's a work-in-progress, some healthy skepticism. But the idea seems generally sound, given the speed caveat.

What does this say about the Angels? Well, the Angels let one 2004 "underperformer" go in David Eckstein, but signed two others in Steve Finley and Orlando Cabrera. I suspect Eckstein's underperformance might come from the fact that though he hits line drives, they're often weak little line drives, relatively unlikely to become hits. Steve Finley may have underperformed because, frankly, he's not very fast anymore. Cabrera ... well, he's relatively quick, maybe that's just bad luck.

The Legs and Juan Rivera both rank amongst 2004's "overperformers". With Figgins, the reason is obvious, it's the Ichiro! reason (there are a number of other speedy guys on the same list). Rivera ... well, the way he's hit so far this year, maybe he was lucky last year.

So you can see 2005 marks through May 8 here. You have to scroll down to see the Angels (the thing I hate most about the name change is that we're no longer at the top of every alphabetical list), and you'll see that just about every guy on the team is underperforming by this measure. Vlad is the only guy significantly above expectations, which -- whatever, it's Vlad. But everyone else seems to be hitting the ball okay, they're just not getting the hits. You knew that last part, but here's another hint that we're due to emerge from the funk.

I'm not saying this PrOPS is the gospel, but I think it's an interesting attempt worth noting. I'm most interesting in seeing if PrOPS turns out to be a better predictor of OPS than OPS itself. But I do think some allowance for speed has to be introduced into the equation, otherwise Ichiro! and Figgins and their ilk will always be underestimated.

Is the concept of speed so out of the box that to have it is to be considered appearing better than one irelaly is? Why not adjust for being lefthanded?
I think it's more that speed and its effects are difficult to quantify, so anyone taking a "component" approach to explaining where hits come from is going to run up against the problem.
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