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PostPosted: May 14 06, 3:24 pm 
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Knot Hole Gang Vet wrote:
This is a really great thread, thanks to all for cranking it up.

I was asked to pose a question, and having started as a Card fan in 1941, I guess I should pose something from years long gone.

I know the game is always evolving, and I do not want to take on the mantle of being against anything new. That said, I have a problem with the relief pitching handling. Your work may not have anything to do with this aspect, but the constant rightie/ leftie matchup, and a new guy to pitch to one batter drives me nuts. In the dark ages, if a pitcher gave up a few hits and runs, say 4 or 5 runs, it would look like it was time to try someone else before the game was beyond winning. That fellow would go till it looked like he was getting pounded as well. Sometimes he did so well, everyone would wonder why he did not start the game in the first place. It is a bit of the luck of the draw. But, if someone comes in and retires the side and seems in command, why pull him in favor of a guy who might not be able to find home plate. If he cannot pitch to right and left handed batters, he does not belong in the majors, in my view. Also, how is he to learn, if he never gets a chance?

Also, I have stated on here, that I feel that pitching is watered down due to there being twice as many teams as there were with the old 8 team leagues. That may account for all the heavy mashing prevailing today. Are batters fattening up on lots of second rate pitchers?



mgl:
My post may have slipped by last night just before you signed off. Do you have any thoughts on these matters, or are these only managers and coaches decisions?


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 4:47 pm 
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MGL-Thanks again for your answers. I had no further questions, but just wanted to say I can't wait to get The Book. =D>


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 4:51 pm 
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mgl wrote:
WentCrazy wrote:
Mitchel,

Thanks for dropping by and taking some questions! Below are some of the things I wonder about.

1. How would you rank the defensive positions in terms of importance for an average team. How much does that change depending on the pitching staff, GB:FB ratio, etc? Would you care to add color to the traditional thoughts on the defensive impact of Catchers and 1Bs?


I am not sure what you mean by "defensive importance." Traditionally, we hear about good teams being "strong up the middle" (2B, SS, CF, and C). As is often the case, that is silly. What does that even mean? The better you are at each defensive position, the more games you will win and vice versa. If you have an average SS and a great 3B'man (say Eckstein and Rolen, although Eck is probably a little above average, or Bell and Rollins for Philly), you are pretty much as well off as if you had an average 3B'man and a great SS (say Ensberg and Everett).

That being said, the spread of talent at each position is a little different (some positions have a more narrow spread than others). That is generally because the SS, 2B and CF get more opportunities to field balls than the other positions. That means that for any given player who is above or below average, their talent (above or below average) will be accentuated at those positions. That does not mean that it isn't harder to play SS or CF. It is. It also does not mean that it may not be more difficult to find players who are adequate SS, 2B CF, and C. It may be (although the fact that the more difficult a position defensively, the more we tolerate poor hitting, mitigates this potential problem of scarcity at the right end of the defensive spectrum).

The best defensive players overall are at SS, then 2B, then CF, etc. And of course, to play SS, 2B, and catcher, you need "smart" and experienced players, not just athletically giften ones.

C is a unique position. I don't like to include it in the defensive spectrum. Bill James puts it in the spectrum at the far right end (the most difficult), but I am sure that he recognizes that it is a unique talent and probably does not belong in the same "category" as the other positions. Of course each position requires a certain set of unique skills, so we can't really extrapolate exactly how a player will perform when he moves from one position to another (although we can and do try). For example, Biggio was at least an average 2B. He "should have" been an above average OF'er. For whatever reason, he was terrible in the OF. And of course it generally takes some "getting used to" when a player moves positions, especially from the IF to the OF (like Soriano) or vice versa, which is more rare of course.

In any case, a team should approach each potential player (in terms of personnel decisions) on a case by case basis rather than adopting any particular organizational philsophy with regard to defense or anything else. A position player's value to your team is simply his marginal run value in terms of his offense and defense combined. It doesn't really matter how a player's (or team's) talent is distributed (between offense, defense, and baserunning). While technically a run saved on defense is worth slightly more than a run saved on offense (in win value), for all practical purposes, they are one and the same. It also does not matter how that talent is distributed on the team, in terms of the defensive spectrum. +3 (or -5) runs at second base is the same as +3 (or -5) runs in LF (in terms of a defensive projection or defensive talent) or any other position.

So this whole idea of trying to be strong up the middle or a team "focusing on defense" (or offense or pitching), is silly. You simply try and put together the best overall team you can for the lowest amount of payroll (it is not quite that simple, but that is the basic idea).

If you happen to have a heavily laden GB or FB staff, of course the "average" defensive projections (based on a league average G/F tatio) for each player will change. The Cards have had a fairly heavy GB staff (rarely does a team overall have a heavy FB or GB staff because there are just too many pitchers on a staff), so obviously it behooves them to have a better defense in the IF than in the OF. It doesn't make all that much difference though. And of course, if you have a heavy RH pitching staff, you would prefer better defense at SS and 3B. If you have lots of lefties on your pitching staff, you can leverage your defense by having better defenders at 2B and 1B. Etc.

For an individual pitcher who is heavily FB or GB, it can make a large difference where the strength of your defense is. In fact, you can use "defensive" platoons with certain pitchers if you want (if you happen to have the personnel for that, which most teams don't). A few years ago, Boston had the opportunity to play Pokey Reese in the IF when Lowe was on the mound, even though he doesn't hit a lick, because his great defense was so accentuated behind a GB pitcher.

As far as 1B and catcher:

My opinion is that teams overvalue catcher defense. The average catcher is such a poor hitter these days that I believe there are many players in the majors and in the minors who "should be" catching in the major leagues because they are decent, good or excellent hitters, and can catch a little (e.g., Fick, Willingham, C. Wilson). They don't catch because teams (and pitchers I guess) do not like to catch players who are considered weak on defense (and in "handling" a pitching staff). Instead, players like Flaherty, Chavez, Diaz, Ausmus, and our own Gary Bennett, continue to have part time or full-time catching jobs even though they can't hit a lick. I believe that this philosophy is counterproductive, but I could be wrong.

Sabermetricians have had a hard time identifying significant differences among catchers in terms of how they call pitches and thus affect a pitcher's ERA (basically "catcher ERA"). That doesn't mean that those differences do not exist. It does suggest however that maybe catchers do not have as much influence on pitchers as teams (and the pitchers themsleves) think. (Maybe with a young staff, you need a good, experienced catcher, and with a veteran pitching staff it doesn't really matter - I don't know.)

That being said, catcher defense, in terms of PB, WP, throwing out and picking off baserunners, fielding bunts, and errors, appears to be worth plus or minus 10 runs a year or so in talent, about the same as a first baseman, not a huge amount to write home about, as compared to a middle infielder or CF'er (who can be worth plus or minus 15 to 20 runs a year).

While defensive metrics likke UZR and Dewan's (and others) system, measure first base defense well (in terms of fielding ground balls), not a whole lot of saber people have yet incorporated "receiving bad throws" into the "first base defense paradigm." Dewan has done some work on that. I'm sure some other people have as well. While it is definitely a skill that varies from player to player, my best guess (WAG) is that it is another plus or minus 5 runs at best, perhaps making a first baseman "worth" almost as much as a 2B and SS overall, and more than a 3B. Of course, 2B and SS get some extra "value" in terms of their ability to catch line drives and pop flies (and to a lesser extent 1B and 3B), both of which are generally ignored, for better or worse, in many of the advanced defensive metrics, including my own UZR.

Quote:
2. How would you characterize the Cardinals' organization's ability/willingness to adopt to sabermetric thinking.


Touchy subject! To be purposely terse, at the managerial and coaching big league level (LaRussa and staff), very little. At the GM level (Walt and Mo), a little. At other levels in the front office, a lot. At the level of the principal owner, although he does not meddle too much in the day to day affairs of the team, AFAIK, a lot. At other levels in the organization and with other front office personnal, a little to a lot.

Quote:
3. Many people have raved about the Cards' '05 draft. In your opinion is it more likely that was a lucky one-time shot or should we expect to see the Cards draft class to perform similarly in the future?


No, definitely not "lucky." Myself (not so much anymore) and some other stat guys, along with other front office and scouting people, have put a lot of time, energy, and research (especially statistical analysis of college players), into the amateur draft. You never know of course (IOW, "luck" plays a large role in the ultimate success of the draft, as it does in all aspects of baseball), but expect the Cards to continue to have stellar drafts. It is and will continue to be one of the Cards really strong areas, even as compared to the other saber teams, like Oakland and Boston. This bodes well for our future.


Thanks MGL. You took a poorly worded question about the defensive spectrum and answered it brilliantly.

As a fan, I'm pleased as punch to hear the answers on the organizations usage of sabermetric tools, particularly wrt to the draft. It sounds like you have faith in Mr. Luhnow's work.

Here's hoping they pull you out of limbo and re-up!

Thanks again for your time and diligence in answering the questions!

Cheers,
WentCrazy


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 4:55 pm 
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Reverend Redbird wrote:
MGL-Thanks again for your answers. I had no further questions, but just wanted to say I can't wait to get The Book. =D>


Agreed, I hopfully I'll have "The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball" on Monday or Tuesday.


mgl, you are the best!


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 5:27 pm 
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Knot Hole Gang Vet wrote:
Knot Hole Gang Vet wrote:
This is a really great thread, thanks to all for cranking it up.

I was asked to pose a question, and having started as a Card fan in 1941, I guess I should pose something from years long gone.

I know the game is always evolving, and I do not want to take on the mantle of being against anything new. That said, I have a problem with the relief pitching handling. Your work may not have anything to do with this aspect, but the constant rightie/ leftie matchup, and a new guy to pitch to one batter drives me nuts. In the dark ages, if a pitcher gave up a few hits and runs, say 4 or 5 runs, it would look like it was time to try someone else before the game was beyond winning. That fellow would go till it looked like he was getting pounded as well. Sometimes he did so well, everyone would wonder why he did not start the game in the first place. It is a bit of the luck of the draw. But, if someone comes in and retires the side and seems in command, why pull him in favor of a guy who might not be able to find home plate. If he cannot pitch to right and left handed batters, he does not belong in the majors, in my view. Also, how is he to learn, if he never gets a chance?

Also, I have stated on here, that I feel that pitching is watered down due to there being twice as many teams as there were with the old 8 team leagues. That may account for all the heavy mashing prevailing today. Are batters fattening up on lots of second rate pitchers?



Sorry, I acutally wrote a response but accidentally deleted it. As far as pitchers who come in (or starters) and are doing well or not, and whether they should continue in the game, we have a great section on that in The Book. You might be surprised at the results.

I am a great fan of the LOOGY and ROOGY (bringing in lefty and righty pitchers to pitch to same side batters. In any particular PA, expecially a high leverage one (then the game "is on the line"), you want the pitcher who has the best possible chance of getting the batter out (things like indudcing a GDP or a K aside). Often that is a same side pitcher. Regardless of the overall talent of a pitcher, there is a huge difference between pitching to an opposite side batter and a same side batter, especially for pitchers with large true platoon splits (like our own Braden Looper, who us essentially useless versus lefties). A pitcher's platoon splits really has little to do with his overall talent or experience. I don't think you can "teach" (or have him improve through experience) a pitcher to pitch to opposite side batters. A pitcher's platoon split is a natural thing. The magnitude of it has to do mainly with arm angle and the types of pitches he throws (pitchers with changeups, splitters, and 12 to 6 curves tend to have smaller splits, as well as pitchers who throw "over the top"). In any case, for example, unless a lefty pitcher is exception overall (like a Wagner) or has a very small platoon split, almost any mediocre RHP is going to be "better" versus a RHB. Ditto for a right handed pitcher versus a LHB. So this shuffling RH and LH pitchers in and out, is in fact quite productive, if used properly. In fact, many managers do not do it enough, especially when it comes to their closers. For example, last year the Mets uses Looper as their exclusive closer for most of the year, even though he is ineffective versus LHB. Many teams, especially when they don't have a dominant closer, should use tandem RH and LH closers. Teams do not like to do that for various reasons. Ozzie does that very well with the White Sox. Of course, when you employ lots of LOOGY's and ROOGY's, there are roster considerations. I won't discuss that here. Again, we have an excellent section in The Book on optimal bullpen use, including whether and how to use RH and LH releif specialists. Two of the reasons why you see lots of this kind of "jockeying" with the bullpen in the modern era are one, there is more awareness of the "power of the platoon advantage," and two, we are in a general era of specialization in baseball, for better or for worse.

As far as pitching being "watered down" with expansion:

First of all, hitting gets "watered down" as well. There is no evidence that I am aware of that there is a "better" pool of hitters than pitchers that get an opporunity to play with expansion. So run scoring overall does not change much with expansion. Plus, over time, the larger pool of available talent (population in general increases, more blacks, foreigners, etc.) and the better athlete in general (through better training, nutrition, etc.) mitigate the dilution effect of expansion. IOW, there are so many more talented pitchers and hitters now as compared to 50 years ago, that if you didn't have expansion, ML baseball would be overflowing with excellent players.

That being said, after expansion each player faces a slightly poorer pool of opponents, so we would expect to see slightly better play among all established players. However, even this effect is generally overstated. For example, what happened after the 98 expansion, in which one team was added to each league? Basically each player faced the same pool of opponents in 14/15 or 93% of their PA or TBF and a pool of replacement players in only 7% of their PA or TBF. That is not going to change a player's performance a whole lot, even at the extremes (remember it is a myth that good hitters "feast" on poor pitching).

Thanks everyone for the great questions and comments! I thoroughly enjoy these kinds of forums. This was an especially good one with lots of intelligent, knowledgeable, and cordial fans. Good luck with the Cards of course. Let's hope that we make it back to the WS. Cardinals fans are the greatest fans in the country, and St. Louis is the best baseball city I have ever seen. I mean that sincerely. Cheers!

MGL


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PostPosted: May 14 06, 7:05 pm 
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mgl wrote:
Thanks everyone for the great questions and comments! I thoroughly enjoy these kinds of forums. This was an especially good one with lots of intelligent, knowledgeable, and cordial fans. Good luck with the Cards of course. Let's hope that we make it back to the WS. Cardinals fans are the greatest fans in the country, and St. Louis is the best baseball city I have ever seen. I mean that sincerely. Cheers!

MGL


Thanks for answering my/our questions. Hopefully you can manage to return and comment in the forums from time to time. We would all dig that very much.


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PostPosted: May 15 06, 8:35 am 
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Not only am I glad to see the excellent questions and answers, I am actually delighted to see someone who apparently hates the hit and run as much as I do. And do I gather from your comments that you (largely) don't care for the IBB either?

Add those to the comments on putting together a team (up the middle, relative and marginal value, etc), your view that it's (roughly) equal control over batted balls between pitcher and hitter, and the overpayment for mulder, I'm starting to wonder if I have a long lost brother...thanks for the comments.


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PostPosted: May 15 06, 8:36 am 
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Wow. What a spectacular thread.

mgl, if your'e still answering... it would seem that you're an advocate of having Brad Thompson as a starter rather than a reliever. Am I correct in that assertion?


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PostPosted: May 15 06, 1:07 pm 
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If you (or Tangotiger or anyone with the data...) is still around???

Regarding playoff baseball:

We generally say that playoff baseball is the same as regular season baseball but I haven't seen a lot of research/articles on it.

I don't have the tools/databases to quickly calculate these numbers but is how does run scoring compare in the playoffs vs. regular season? Obviously all playoff data will have some sample size issues but IIRC, the years I looked, scoring was down in the playoffs...

How do BB/9 and K/9 rates compare from the regular season to postseason? Is there any statistical evidence of umpires calling the game differently in the playoffs? *Other* studies like these ususal all reach the same conclusion of NO but the recent BP article replacement minor league umpires and their impact for home/road teams got me thinking...

Can you point me in the direction of any good articles on this?

If the run scoring *is* different, is it expected? Since teams can leverage their good pitchers more in the playoffs could this lower run scoring?

I have seen you, Tangotiger and others say something like if a pitcher with a true talent OPS against of .700 faces a hitter with a true talent OPS of .900... the expected result is simply the average (OPS 800). IF this holds true during the regular is there also statistical analysis that verifies for the playoffs?


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PostPosted: May 15 06, 3:06 pm 
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stewie13 wrote:
I don't have the tools/databases to quickly calculate these numbers but is how does run scoring compare in the playoffs vs. regular season?


IIRC, the average team that makes the playoffs scores 5 and allows 4 in the regular season (since 1969). In the playoffs they score and allow 4.

Quote:
I have seen you, Tangotiger and others say something like if a pitcher with a true talent OPS against of .700 faces a hitter with a true talent OPS of .900... the expected result is simply the average (OPS 800). IF this holds true during the regular is there also statistical analysis that verifies for the playoffs?


Not quite. The quick expected would be: hitter + pitcher - league. So, a .400 OBP hitter against a .300 OBP pitcher in a league of .340 OBP would give you an expectation of .360 OBP. Another way would be hitter*pitcher/league, which in this case gives us .353. The Odds Ratio Method (which is the most correct) would give us .357.

Why would you think it'd be any different in the playoffs?


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