Monday, June 13, 2005

I had this almost ready to go this morning, but then we had massive computer problems at work so it never got posted. So all the numbers here are through Sunday's game, the game I'm watching right now isn't included. Anyway ...

So we survived the longest road trip of the year, going up against good teams without our best player for 75% of the journey, and we managed to go 6-6 and come back home with a two-and-a-half game lead on Texas. All in all, not bad.

Yesterday was a welcome win after kicking away the game on Saturday. For all the Halosphere rumbling about Steve Finley's bending it like Beckham, we have to remember that we seized the lead after that mishap, only to see Brendan Donnelly offer himself up to Mr. Met. Donnelly's ERA is now up to 4.34, not-so-hot for a short reliever, and he's now allowed five home runs in 29 innings.

Donnelly has been quite streaky this season. Breaking it down:
Dates       IP   BF   SO/BF   BB/BF   HR/BF   H/BF    ERA
4/6-4/12 5.7 27 .222 .037 .074 .333 7.94
4/16-5/29 16.3 62 .145 .048 .000 .161 0.55
5/31-6/11 7.0 30 .233 .100 .100 .200 10.29
He's basically been lights-out for half the year, and been cannon fodder for the other half. It seems odd that his bad periods coincide with tons of strikeouts; I don't really have an explanation for that. Maybe when he's going bad, he plays fast-and-loose in the strike zone, playing a high-risk, high-reward game? In his bad periods, almost one batter in three he faces either strikes out or hits a home run. But maybe there's no real explanation, and it's just a fluke. Who knows.

Either way, it's time for Brendan to receive another call from Troy Percival.


Interesting note from the esteemed Halofan today: "The only thing that has calmed me down about the team's lousiest player, Steve Finley, is that his stats are very much in line with what Troy Glaus has produced this season."

Oh, that's odd, I thought. I know Glaus started off as hot as Finley started off cold, but it is June, and thus time for the Annual Troy Glaus Summer Slump (we're at 250/353/318 so far this month). But can it be that Finley and Glaus are hitting as well as each other?

Well, Glaus' AVG/OBP/SLG line is 258/354/511 and Finley's is 233/301/433. Well, the BoB is a good hitters' park ... so I went to Baseball Prospectus to check out their advanced park-adjusted figures.

Steve Finley has a .254 Equivalent Average (.260 is average, and it's scaled like batting average), has created 27 runs, two below average. Glaus has a .282 EqA, has created 36 runs, six above average. So the offensive difference between them, per BPro, is eight runs, pretty close to one win.

If you trust BPro's defensive numbers, which I do not, Finley gains some ground there, but I think it's a big stretch to pretend Finley has been as productive as Glaus so far this year.

How have Bill Stoneman's machinations worked out so far this season? Here are BPro's figures (BRAA is Batting Runs Above Average).
Player EqA BRAA Player EqA BRAA
Cabrera .233 -7 Eckstein .268 2
Finley .254 -2 Guillen .282 6
Rivera .209 -12 Glaus .282 6
That last comparison may be unfair; maybe Glaus should be compared to McPherson, who has a .252 EqA and -2 BRAA. But no matter how you cut it, the players the Angels have let go have performed quite well with the bats, and depending on how you make the comparison, the difference is one of 25 to 35 runs; that's around three wins in offense we are without.

Of course, gloves matter, as well. There's no easy way to measure that, but I doubt that the defensive difference between the new and old guys is quite enough to make up 25-35 runs. I've come up with a little something here just to make a guess, though a boulder of salt should be taken with it. I'll explain after the chart.
ACQUIRED/RETAINED                    LET GO
Cabrera .861 .016 3.09 5.34 Eckstein .782 -.038 -9.38 -6.50
Finley .814 -.048 -6.90 -5.70 Guillen .926 .039 5.10 4.45
McPhrsn .841 .050 3.80 3.93 Glaus .746 -.026 -4.22 -3.95
TOTAL -0.01 3.57 -8.50 -6.00
What the hell is FRAM? It's Fielding Runs Above Median, and it's my attempt to convert plain ol' zone rating (available at ESPN to runs).

First, you take the median zone rating at the position for all qualifiers (for instance, third basemen are ranked here). You can than use that figure along with the same figures from the old Chris Dial post I used in converting PMR to runs to figure how many runs the median performer prevented per ball in play. I then estimate balls-in-play by dividing an infielder's assists (or, for an outfielder, putouts) by his zone rating. For instance, McPherson has a ZR of .841 and 64 assists, so we assume he has had about 76 balls in play through his zone. This is a big assumption, but we are limited in what data is available.

So McPherson, by ZR, is .050 runs above the median per ball in play, and has had 76 balls in play, so that comes out to 3.80 Fielding Runs Above Median.

The final figure is the positional adjustment. I put this in to put Guillen and Finley on equal footing, under the assumption that the average CF is a more valuable defender than an average RF. I used Tango Tiger's positional adjustments, which are based on 600 BIP (about 150 games). Per Tango's research, there is about an eight-run difference between the average CF and average RF over that stretch, which I adjusted down based on how many BIP I estimated for each player.

There is a lot of guesswork involved here, and also a lot of reliance on zone rating. But this estimate shows that Stoneman's acquisitions/retentions get about a win back on defense. Combining that with the offense, that means we've missed about two wins so far.

I understand if you don't trust my defensive estimates, as there are a lot of assumptions and small sample sizes involved. But I just don't see how Stoneman's machinations over the offseason have made the team better, and just about all of this was predictable.

But I just don't see how Stoneman's machinations over the offseason have made the team better, and just about all of this was predictable.

Umm, dude, you completely left out the chemistry quotient. Seriously.
Not only that, but there were budget considerations (hence, McPherson over Glaus). There is also no way Guillen was going to come back. And this was meant to be a sort of contending rebuilding year. So the only things that really could have changed would be to not pick up Finley and/or OC and not drop Eckstein. I think the better comparison would be Finley/OC to Beltran/Eckstein.
And there's also the money & contract years tied up. OC/SF/DM/JR/PB/EY cost less than DE/TG/JG/TP/AS this year, and a whole lot less in 2006 & beyond.
There is a thing called the defensive spectrum first discussed by Bill James. Ever heard of him? Cabrera's good defense (especially in regards to Eckstein) is a far superior contribution to Finley's lousy comps with Guillen. I jsut wished Finley would dive for a ball ONCE this season.
oh and in murderizing Bill Stoneman, check out that Alzheimers for leaving out the Percival / Frankie comps.
As far as the chemisty question goes, that really only applies to Jose Guillen, who had to go. I should have acknowledged that. The problem wasn't that he left, it's that Finley was the de facto replacement for him, and there was no way Finley was going to provide the production this year that Guillen did last year. Of course, it's tough to find a CF who would.

Cabrera/Finley/McPherson cost $11.32M this year, while Eckstein/Guillen/Glaus cost $14.25M. So the team is paying $3M less to get about two less wins (to this point).

Next year, the Angel trio will make $14.5M + whatever McPherson makes, and the other three will make $17.5M. Again, we're looking at a $3M difference at maximum, which isn't breaking the bank.

As for the defensive spectrum, I did address that in my positional adjustment, which raised the current Angel defensive advantage from 8.49 runs to 9.57 runs. But Finley has looked terrible in CF and the numbers back it up, and CF is right behind SS on the defensive spectrum, so that argument bites both ways.

As for the Frankie/Percival comparison, I do consider letting Percy go kind of a no-brainer ... but none of this was analysis was planned for this post, actually. I was addressing the Glaus/Finley comparison and it kind of steamrolled and I stuck to the position players (it's already overlong as it is).

And I'm not sure that comparing Frankie to Percy is the right route to take. What that really did was shallow up the bullpen, which was exacerbated by a poor signing (Yan) and a total implosion (Gregg). Peralta and Woods have managed to bail the team out of that to some degree, but in so doing have underscored how ill-advised the Yan signing was in the first place.

I realize this post ended up as a something of a screed against Stoneman, which was not the intent. I actually think he's a pretty good GM. But I think he's made some mistakes: he made a mistake in re-signing Garret Anderson too early (an opinion I have come to retroactively), thus forcing out Troy Glaus (who after Garret's arthritis has an injury history no scarier than Garret's; he made a mistake in signing Steve Finley and Yan; and (I believe) he made a mistake in signing Cabrera to a four-year deal worth ~$5M more than Eckstein's contract, when there is no way, even with his defensive superiority, that Cabrera is going to outproduce Eckstein enough to earn that difference.
My call: Cabrera will outproduce Eckstein over the length of his stay in Anaheim. Like judging Garret's extension, we can all judge that one in hindsight.
I realize this post ended up as a something of a screed against Stoneman, which was not the intent. I actually think he's a pretty good GM.

Actually, you are too kind to Stoneman, I think he is pretty mediocre. If not for lucking into the Guerrero signing I would rate him as abysmal.

The decisions to let Glaus and Percy go were great decisions. They had younger, cheaper, less fragile alternatives in the organization and the way you have the cash for a Vlady type of star is to promote from within when possible. Those decisions were great.

Unfortunately, he didn't use the same reasoning with regards to the SS position. OC was/is a COMPLETE WASTE of money. His defense is very good, yes, but $8 million per year good? No way! I'd take Eckstein's OBP and solid, if unspectacular defense over OC any day, especially when considering the length of contract. Eckstein had two years of arbitration eligibility left - let him play that out while one of the guys in the minors prepares for the major league job. Maybe in 2006 you can let Eck walk and give the job to a rookie for $300,000 a year. The Halos have a TON of middle infield prospects - and GOOD prospects. Callaspo, Aybar, Wood, Specht....and there are more.

Now, they have a decent SS signed for BIG money for the next 4 years - blocking about 4 great prospects that could possibly out-hit OC by spring training 2006.

But I think he's made some mistakes: he made a mistake in re-signing Garret Anderson too early (an opinion I have come to retroactively), thus forcing out Troy Glaus (who after Garret's arthritis has an injury history no scarier than Garret's

I never thought of it that way - but letting Glaus walk was still a good decision. Signing GA to a 4 year deal was not.

he made a mistake in signing Steve Finley and Yan;

I had no idea how terrible Finley was in CF until this year. He is the worst CF I have ever seen. He is slow coming in on balls, slow to the gaps and slow back on balls. I can't believe this stiff won gold glove awards. Simply amazing.

Yan was a complete waste of money as well, as evidenced by the ability of Joel Peralta, Chris Bootcheck and Jake Woods to come in, unexpectedly, and pitch well in the back end of the bull-pen. That was a signing I expect from Ed Wade or the Cub GM (Hendry?), not the GM of my team.

and (I believe) he made a mistake in signing Cabrera to a four-year deal worth ~$5M more than Eckstein's contract,

That's $5 million PER YEAR! That's $15 million over the three years of Eck's deal in St. Louis.

there is no way, even with his defensive superiority, that Cabrera is going to outproduce Eckstein enough to earn that difference.

Couldn't agree more.
1. Eckstein is hitting waaaay better than he usually does so far this year, and Cabrera is hitting significantly worse. I think Halofan's right; things are going to even out in the long run. While the length of Cabrera's contract is a problem, he is going to turn out to be a (slight) upgrade.

2. Why in the name of God are people making these dismissive, contemptuous noises about Garret Anderson's contract? Anybody been watching baseball games this year? Anybody realize that Anderson's been the only Angel to both produce consistently and stay relatively healthy? Let us not forget that, if not for Anderson, the Angels would be playing someone worse than Steve Finley in his stead.
Regarding your 2. Sean: Anderson's contract was borderline indefensible at the time. Too many years to an older player unlikely to stay healthy and/or plain old deliver. His subsequent extended DL time, while surprising at the time for its source, was somewhat predictable because of his age.

Jim Scully: Stoneman is a mediocre GM. To prove to me that he is a bad GM, you will first have to erase from the world's memory the Mo Vaughn/Kevin Appier trade.

Halofan: there is no reason to believe Cabrera will pull out of this extended slump. He is simple declining faster than anyone, Bill Stoneman included, anticipated. Cabrera had a very good 2003 and found somebody willing to overcompensate him for it. The Cabrera signing is a disaster mitigated only by the slight improvement over Eckstein he represents defensively.
Rob, Anderson will have just turned 36 when he finishes his contract extension. For a guy who's never spent any siginficant time on the DL except for that fairly freakish arthritis deal (which occurred during his walk year, not his extension), that's not too much of a risk. Is he likely to miss a few games here and there because of (for example) aging hamstrings? Sure. But the upside in terms of overall performance is still huge. Like I said, he's carried this team offensively through April and May, which in and of itself could be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home. Currently, he projects to 152 games, 604 ABs, with a .319/.341/.472 line. You might turn out to be right, but so far this one's in Stoneman's column.
Regarding the Garret extension, I'm worried about how his body will hold up over the course of a full season and future years. However, I must admit that, so far, Garret has hit well this season -- his EqA was just a bit higher than Troy Glaus' entering Monday's games. But will that still be the case three years from now? Time will tell, and I certainly could end up being wrong ...
Per Glaus & Finley & Percy -- In 2007, we will be paying *none* of those guys, and D-Mac's salary will still be small. Finley's still signed for one year too many, as is Cabrera, but on the whole our package of deals created far more contractual flexibility, while maintaining our ability to win the division. That sounds OK to me.

As for the Cabrera haters, I'd ask this -- if, as seems obvious to me, the Angels defense is significantly improved over last year, to whom do you attribute that to? And while we're at it, is it just blind luck that Washburn, Lackey & Colon are all significantly better than last year?

Cabrera, as "finished" as he allegedly is, is on pace for 47 XBH. Eckstein had 36, once. He's a better base-stealer (4/0, compared to 6/4), a far better fielder, much more durable, and doesn't depend on an offensive approach that pitchers can neutralize once they learn it. Yes, he's signed for one year too many, but he's a key reason why we have an effective pitching-and-defense team this year.
Angels DER in 2005: 0.6947
Angels DER in 2004: 0.6883
OC's Rate2 in 2005: 110
Eckstein's Rate2 in 2004: 99

I guess you could argue that a big part of the improved defense is Cabrera's doing, and moving Anderson to left. He does seem to get to a lot more balls and throw fewer of them away.
matt -- XBH are meaningless if you're batting eighth all the time. A .302 OBP is barely, barely getting it done.
XBH are meaningless if you're batting eighth all the time.

I think that's the silliest thing I've ever heard you say. XBH are certainly more meaningful than non-XBH, regardless of one's spot in the order. And yes, OC's OBP is currently terrible.

As for DERs & Rate2s, I must confess to not having the same kind of faith in any individual or team defense stat than you probably do. I tend to believe that suddenly lower ERAs are tied closer to defense improvements than are generally given credit for, and I also make the mistake of trusting my eyeballs.

I predict that O-Cab will have more value this year than Eck, and significantly more value than Eck every year from here on out. And I look forward to reminding you of that....
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