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PostPosted: May 14 06, 2:38 am 
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StatmanCrothers wrote:
Mitchel,

Thanks so much for all the great info. I find myself nodding a lot and saying YES! WELL PUT! when reading your answers.

I had trouble coming up with a good question because I already seem to know everything. :D

I am more from a probability background than a pure stats background, so in 1995 when I got my hands on the Baseball Workshop play by play database for an entire season (purchased for $100 on a floppy from... um... the Baseball Workshop guy whose name escapes me) the first thing I did with it was basically (re)invent Win Shares and do some graphs of Win Probability for Cardinals games... names like Jordan Gilkey and Lankford were dancing in Excel graphs... I showed it to some of my fantasy baseball cohorts and their eyes glazed over, they chuckled and said what will that guy think of next. The spreadsheet was huge and computers were slow and I shelved it. I did tell them "In ten years everyone will evaluate games like this" ... I'm somewhat surprised that it is coming true.

After I "invented" win probabilities I later found out I had reinvented the wheel, I saw something similar in "The Hidden Game of Football" and later read someone had done something like it in the 60s, by hand! This is not surprising, it is a very logical way to think about the game to anyone with a creative mind and background in probability. This leads me to question 1....

Quote:
What is the sound of one hand clapping?


oops, that's not it... wrong note card... ah, here it is, question 1:

Quote:
What is the earliest known "invention" of a probabalistic approach such as Win Probabilities (or even Run Shares) in the analysis of baseball?


Second subject, remember those Sagarin rating things in the USA Today where he would run some simulations of how many runs "a team of 9 Barry Bonds" would score -- perhaps those are still published, I'm not sure. Didn't anyone ever tell that guy about Markov chains? Rhetorical question, I'm sure he's a smart dude doing his best.

Anyway, this is similar to a RC/27 type of evaluation, except for someone like Bonds, as valuable as he is, this is way overinflated because he is drawing lots of walks and then driving himself in with his HRs... the walks increase the value of the HRs and vice versa.... you alluded to this when talking about considering this effect when evaluating pitchers and teams, and how it did not apply to batters (since they do not, in fact, play on a team with 8 clones.... I just shuddered thinking of 8 clones of Barry Bonds... but I digress)

One way I like to evaluate a player is (R+RBI)/2 per Outs. Very simple but effective. True Run Shares or RC would be better but, simplicity is nice too.

However, in some respects this type of calculation (regardless of your "R" metric used) has a very subtle catch that is similar to the Sagarin flaw.

Consider Case 1:
Quote:
HR Out Out Out


Case 2:
Quote:
2B 1B Out Out Out


Let's assume both created the same number of Runs by whatever metric we are using. Both made 3 outs. Equivalent? Not really.
One of them did it in 4 plate appearance, one did it in 5. In a team context, if this is "above average" performance, and it is, then the player who did this in 4 Plate appearances will "repeat" his performance more often than the other player. Not obvious? Bear with me.

So I came up with the following.

I like to use 4.5 runs per game as a constant "baseline" for an "average" team because it changes every year anyway and it is a nice "1 run every 2 innnings"

Let's think about how many plate apperances our average team has. If we assume an average OBP of 1/3 which is fair,then our Out% is 2/3. you are either getting on base or making an out. okay.

so for our baseline player, Outs/PA = 2/3
at 1 run per 6 outs, this equates to = Runs/PA = (2/3)*(1/6)= 1/9

Now the simple part.

How does our example player factor into a team of 8 of these guys?

well he has 1 PA for each 8 PA of his teammates, so we just do a weighted sum at a ratio of 8:1 and THEN and only THEN do we divide
Runs/PA by the Outs/PA to get our final Runs/Out number for the combination.

So for example 1:

Runs / PA = 8*(1/9) + 1 run / 4 PA = 8/9 + 1/4 = 41/36
Outs / PA = 8*(2/3) + 3 outs / 4 PA = 16/3 + 3/4 = 73/12

Runs/Outs = (41/36)*(12/73) = (41/3)/73 = 0.187
Runs/27 = 5.05 RPG
Compared to 4.5 RPG this is +0.55

For example 2:

8/9 + 1/5 = 49/45
16/3 + 3/5 = 89/15

Runs/Outs = (49/45)*(15/89) = (49/3)/89 = 0.1835
Runs/27 = 4.96 RPG
Compared to 4.5 RPG this is +0.46

So in summary, I think it is very important to look NOT just at RC/27 or any similar (Productivity per out) for a player, but to put that in a team context you must put it it terms of

RC/PA and Outs/PA

and only after factoring that into a team context can you take a true measure of RC/Outs for the combination of that player in a lineup.

Which brings me to question 2:

Quote:
What is your destiny?


Oops, wrong card again....

question 2:

Quote:
Has anyone else realized this or am I reinventing the wheel again?


Your post is a good one and made me laugh (not nearly as much as Seinfeld tonight though - he was hilarious).

Player win averages were computed by the Mills brothers of course (not the musical group - at least I dont think) in 1970 or so.

RC is a stupid stat, as you say, because it captures an interactive affect among a hitter's own stats, which is not what happens in real life of course.

I don't know of what use how many runs a team of 8 or 9 Bonds' or Neifi Perez' would score, other than it tells you that one player is really good and one player is really bad.

One of MGL's many rules is:

Before you invent a wheel, do plenty of research to see if it has already been invented. If it has, spend your time on improving it (and make sure yourimprovements have not already been invented as well), or move on to something else.

A corrolary to that: Before you embark on any project, spend lots of time learning all you can about it.


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 3:07 am 
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deputyfife wrote:
So is it safe to say that the Cardinals should have kept Barton, and kept him at catcher (same goes for A's), no matter his bad defense, because he would bring such an advantage offensively over any other available catcher?

Would this also indicate that a prospect like Anderson should be kept at catcher no matter what? (at least, until he is getting passed balls on every third pitch?)

if tangotiger or mgl come back and see this, can your methods point to a particular reason why Mulder does not appear to be the same pitcher he was 3 years ago?

Also, when you equate a dollar amount ($3m) for each marginal win, is that dollar amount what you (consider as a sound investment to) pay over the average salary, or are you computing total salary to be $3m*marginalwins?


Good questions!

We should not have made that trade in the first place, IMO, and in fact, I recommended against it. Haren was a league-average starting pitcher at worst (he has since "become" a little worse), Calero was closer quality, Barton was a great prospect, and Mulder was a good, but not great pitcher. Besides, good, young (ML experience-wise) players are gold because they don't make much money! I can't emphasize that enough. When you make trades, you don't trade players, you trade contracts! You trade X amount of marginal wins above repalcement for A amount of dollars and you get in return Y amount of marginal wins above replacement for B amount of dollars. You better compare the talent AND the dollars before you make a trade (not to mention future dollars, such as if a player is in his first or second year of service, you have many years of cheap labor - if that player is already good, like Calero or Haren, you have liquid gold in a bottle).

Anyway, getting back to your question, there are lots of other considerations as far as who you should develop as a catcher and who you should move off the position. Most people think that being a catcher hinders offensive development in general. I don't know if that is true.

It probably ultimately takes a toll on a player's speed and maybe even his career longevity. Catchers tend to wear down as the season progresses. They generally only play 130 or so games a year, even when healthy. How good are they at another position? For example, moving a player off of catcher to play first base is a lot different that moving him to second base.

So as far as Barton or Anderson specifically, I don't know. I don't know them well enough, and don't have a good enough handle on these considerations. As I have said, I think that teams in general overvalue catcher defense, at least at the major league level, but I am not even sure of that. There is a big difference between not playing C. A. Wilson or J. Willingham behind the dish and whether or not to switch a player from catcher to some other position in the minor leagues, where "development" as well as a team's potential future needs, is a big concern.

I don't know what happened to Mulder. He basically has gotten worse since 02, and especially since 03, as you point out. The only thing that has really changed systematically is his K rate (which automatically causes your hits per PA to go up, since BABIP is pretty constant for any pitcher). I don't know why. Has his velocity gone down over the years? I don't know. That is not my domain really. He is still relatively young of course. Maybe he was not that good (true talent-wise) in the first place and now he is pitching to his true talent level. It is possible that his early success was a fluke. Who knows, unless we know something physically (or mentally) about him that has changed. I don't. Our estimate of a player's true talent and thus his projection is always a moving average. If a player's performance goes down in time, we never know if his true talent decreased, his early numbers were a positive fluke, his later numbers are a negative fluke, or any of an infinite number of permutations. It is a little like quantum physics in that we don't really know the position of a sub-atomic particle, only a mathematical formula which defines the probability of a particular position or positions (or something like that). We never know the true talent of a player, especially a pitcher. We can only estimate it based on probability functions. Right now, it looks like Mulder is a good, but not nearly great pitcher. After 02 or even 03, it looked like he was a great pitcher. As I said, who knows?

One of the unchartered territories in sabermetrics is looking at TLV (type, location and velocity of pitches thrown) data to get a better handle on pitcher talent, rather than just looking at the numbers (and traditional scouting). This will vastly improve our ability to estimate pitcher true talent and thus future performance, and perhaps even to "make pitchers better."

Yes, we always want to estimate a player's value based on a certain number of dollars per marginal win above replacement. For example, $ value = 2 mil*MWAR + 500,000. The $500,000 is around the cost of a replacement player. Of course, replacement value is always some number less than average (it can be different for different positions). IOW, league average has to be included somewhere in the baseline.


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 3:15 am 
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skmsw wrote:
MGL wrote:
skmsw wrote:
Recognizing that different teams have different needs, in general, is a top-20% defensive catcher or shortstop with an OPS+ of 75 preferable over a bottom-20% defensive catcher or shortstop with an OPS+ of 100-110?


I hate to sound like a broken record, but these are all silly and counterproductive traditional concepts in baseball. Whatever gives a team the best total marginal win value for any given price is optimal. Obviously if you are weak in one area, it is generally easier to improve in that area. But if you have an opporunity to upgrade at a position in which you are strong, say by 1 marginal win, and it will cost you 2 million to do so, as opposed to upgrading 1 marginal win for 3 mil at a position in which you are weak, you choose the former. It is really quite simple.


Hi mgl,

thanks a lot for taking the time to answer our questions, appreciate it.

My question above wasn't very clear, but I think you nevertheless answered it quite well, especially in your response to a couple other posters with related questons. Would the following be in keeping with your comments throughout this thread?

1) having a strong defensive catcher is no more important than having strong defense at other positions; and

2) the value of strong defense does not offset that player's weak offense quite the way that conventional wisdom usually believes; that is, if Yadi Molina was 18 fielding runs above average in 2005, but 15 batting runs below average, we're not necessarily any better off than if someone else were catching who had 3 batting runs above average and zero fielding runs above average at a similar salary.


You are exactly right, assuming that the run value of that "strong" catcher were equal to the run value of that "strong" other position or positions.

One caveat is that a defensive or pitching run (saved) or slightly more valuable (in wins) than an offensive run (added). For all practical purposes though, your example of the two catchers is correct - they are essentially worth the same to your team.

Also, you have to be careful in comparing pitching runs with position player runs. They are not necessarily equivalent. For example, for a starting pitcher, you have to look at those pitching runs per start, and convert them to marginal wins by looking at runs scored and runs allowed per start. For position players, you can simply take their offensive and defensive marginal runs and divide them by 10 or 11 to convert them into marginal wins. Not so with the starting pitchers.

With relief pitchers, you have to consider leverage. For example, most closers will pitch with an average leverage of around 1.9. That means that their marginal runs have almost twice the value of, for example, a starting pitcher (who generally pitches with an average leverage of around 1.0).


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 3:20 am 
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ghostrunner wrote:
mgl wrote:
It was not until around 5 years ago that I started publishing some of my work and ideas informally on the web, mostly on the old Primer and Fanhome websites (I don't and have never had my own web site). About 2 1/2 years ago, someone from the Cards front office "discovered" me, read some of my work, talked to some people who knew me and my work, talked to me, and was impressed enough to hire me as a consultant for a 2-year stint. They were trying to build an analytical department from the ground up at the time, spearheaded by Jeff Luhnow.


Couple of quick ones:

Does this mean you no longer work for the Cards?

and

I'm always curious about sports writers and analysts, in terms of how their work affects their team allegiances and general enjoyment of the game. I only know of a few writers who are able or willing to show both their passionate and analytical sides in print. In short, my question is - did you have a favorite team before you began your work, and has that changed? Or has your work led you to become a fan of players as opposed to teams?


Right now I am in limbo with the Cards. My contract has expired and we have not yet talked about renewing or some other arrangement.

As I am not and was not necessarily looking for a gig (certainly not a full-time one), one of our goals was for me to "pass the baton" to other analysts working for the team.

I have not had a favorite team since many years ago. I love baseball but I really have no favorite team or players. Nor do I dislike anyone in baseball.


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 3:25 am 
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Reverend Redbird wrote:
mgl wrote:

Keep in mind that the value of a GB is about the same as the value of a FB, even including the GDP. It is just that on the average FB pitchers tend to give up more HR's than GB pitchers. Not always true - just on the average. In general, what is important for a pitcher is a good K rate, a low BB rate, and a low HR rate. If you have 2 of those 3 things, you are generally a good pitcher. If you have 3 of 3, you are generally a great pitcher. If you have only 1 of 3, you generally are mediocre at best. It does not really matter whether you are a FB or GB pitcher. Of the three fly ball pitchers you mentioned, they were all simply mediocre to bad pitchers, regardless of their FB/GB tendencies.

Of the ground ball pitchers you mentioned, Suppan is OK, Marquis is mediocre to bad (both immensely helped by excellent infield defense and of course good run support from an excellent lineup), Mulder is good, but nor nearly as good as he used to be (for whatever reason), and Tavarez was excellent versus righties but useless versus lefties (and great when you needed a ground ball), like Looper. Carp is really the only excellent pitcher we have now (and he is indeed top-notch), at least in the rotation.


Good info.

Anthony Reyes seems to have at least 2 out of the 3 qualities you mentioned. So far in AAA he's walked 5 and struck out 40. He's been good at keeping the ball in the park up until this season. Yet the Cards are still throwing Marquis out there every 5th day. Why?


Good question. Reyes is a stud. You never know how anyone is going to do in the majors of course, and someone has to make a decision about how much seasoning and experience a player needs in the minors. I'm sure that varies from player to player, and you have to "know" the player, which you and I don't.

I have many times expressed my opinion on Reyes and Thompson as compared to Marquis, Ponson, and even Suppan, but the decision is up to Tony, Dunc, and Walt, and whomover else, and who are we to question their wisdom?


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 10:20 am 
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mgl wrote:

One of MGL's many rules is:

Before you invent a wheel, do plenty of research to see if it has already been invented. If it has, spend your time on improving it (and make sure yourimprovements have not already been invented as well), or move on to something else.

A corrolary to that: Before you embark on any project, spend lots of time learning all you can about it.


Thanks for the kind words mgl.

Your approach is very sensible and when I'm working on something for an employer I certainly do the same.

However, I very much enjoy being creative when I'm doing my own thing, I don't mind reinventing a lop-sided wheel now and then. many innovations wouldn't happen if everyone researched "what has gone before" because it can lead everyone down the same path when perhaps another path is better.


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 12:04 pm 
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mgl,

Over the course of this discussion, you've made it clear that mid market teams will get into trouble quickly if they continually pay more $ for marginal win. Is there ever a time you would do this, i.e. if you've identified one key area on your team that would "take you over the top" for lack of a better term?


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 1:00 pm 
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Mitchel:

Another transaction question. I'm always curious about the logic and discussions that go behind transactions. I think the Bigbie/Miles for King deal was particularly interesting for a minor deal.

Did you do any player projections on Bigbie and Miles before the trade this offseason, and if so, did you recommend this deal? How did you project Bigbie and Miles? Was that trade more about a salary/player dump, or were Bigbie and/or Miles two players that the organization specifically targeted?


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 1:30 pm 
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planet pujolsian wrote:
mgl,

Over the course of this discussion, you've made it clear that mid market teams will get into trouble quickly if they continually pay more $ for marginal win. Is there ever a time you would do this, i.e. if you've identified one key area on your team that would "take you over the top" for lack of a better term?


Well, you try and pay less for a marginal win then you expect to gain in revenue. It's a pretty simple formula except you never really know how much a marginal win is worth to your team, and it is difficult to estimate. Of course this strategy is from the standpoint of a fiscally responsible (and intelligent) owner.

Most teams do not operate that way for a variety of reasons. And of course most teams are not capable of figuring out a player's marginal win value, let alone even know what that means. This is not the paradigm that teams have been operating under for the last 100 years. It is a relatively new paradigm and one that requires a sabermetric perspective.

That being said, there is really no such thing as a player taking a team "over the top." In fact, most teams generally overrate the value of an individual player, especially in mid-season. However, as I said in a previous post, there is some new excellent research that suggests that the value of a marginal win is significantly related to a team's chances of making the post-season. If that number is very low or very high, a marginal win may only be worth several hundred thousand. If that number is somewhere in between, then a marginal win (per year) may be worth several million dollars (again, in extra revenue over some number of years - some number of years because the suggestion is that a post-season appearance increases attendance for many years to come).

Also keep in mind that "extra revenue" from a marginal win, be it from the increased chance of a post-season appearance or just increased attendance from having a better team, varies tremendously from team to team. For a large market team with in a lucrative media market (like Bos, NYY, LA, etc.), a marginal win in the "sweet spot" may be worth 10 mil. In a small market, it may only be worth 1 or 2 mil. So it really behooves a team (again, the owner at least) to have competent economist or financial analyst to help it figure out what those marginal wins are worth, given their estimated chance of making the post-season.

Again, without the sabermetric tools to be able to estimate the chances of making the post-season and to compute the marginal win value of a player, this becomes a moot point for a team.


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 1:42 pm 
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CardsnOK wrote:
Mitchel:

Another transaction question. I'm always curious about the logic and discussions that go behind transactions. I think the Bigbie/Miles for King deal was particularly interesting for a minor deal.

Did you do any player projections on Bigbie and Miles before the trade this offseason, and if so, did you recommend this deal? How did you project Bigbie and Miles? Was that trade more about a salary/player dump, or were Bigbie and/or Miles two players that the organization specifically targeted?


Sure, my projections for Bigbie and Miles came into play. King is/was a good lefty reliever, but as you point out, that's a lot of money (2.46 mil I think this year) to pay for a situational lefty.

Bigbie and Miles are decent players who are being paid very little and only have 3 and 2 years of service time, respectively I think.

Rockies players (Miles) tend to be underrated by analysts after park adjusting their home stats because most of them (the analysts) fail to park adjust their road stats to account for the hangover affect, which is significant. Also, Rockies players' road stats scare lots of teams.

While neither player is very good (Bigbie is basically a platoon player and Miles doesn't hit much), they were worth it given their salaries. We traded a guy (King) who was probably making 2-3 mil per marginal win for 2 players who are making around .5 mil per marginal win. That is a good deal even though it may not seem like it.


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