April 30, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Whew. I think I responded to everyone who emailed about getting together to watch road games. If you’re interested, we’ve got two dates already, both Bellevue: May the 12th and May the 26th. If you’re interested (and if you emailed and I missed it) drop me a line for the info.

April 30, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Rafael Soriano’s back in the majors; Bloomquist is on the 15-day DL and Jarvis has been officially released. What, they couldn’t find a taker in trade? I’m stunned. Stunned, I tell you. Stunned.

April 30, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Productive Gluttony

Productive outs are defined in a sidebar in that article I didn’t see at the time because ESPN’s pages format like ass when you use anything but IE w/Flash. So!

POP explained

What is a productive out?

A productive out occurs when …

A baserunner advances with the first out of an inning.

A pitcher sacrifices with one out.

A baserunner is driven home with the second out of an inning.

What is the formula for productive out percentage (POP)?

Productive outs divided by the total number of outs. For instance, if three of Player A’s 10 outs are productive, his POP is .300.

So it’s even worse than what I lambasted him for (that is, it’s just a proxy for OBP, since productive outs couldn’t occur without a runner). And a pitcher sacrificing with no outs isn’t productive but with one out, it is? But if you advance a runner while making the first out, that’s productive, but advancing the runner while making the second out isn’t? Why is it productive for the pitcher, then?

I actually think that defintion’s wrong. I can’t believe that Elias defined a stat so stupid: I mean really, POP must be calculated as

“productive outs” made/potential “productive outs”

Which would make it not a proxy for OBP. But until they actually define the stat, start publishing numbers, rather than using it as some kind of drive-by article reinforcement, that argument’s entirely valid.

Oh, and check out this chart:

Top and bottom

Through April 26

1. Detroit Tigers .430

2. Arizona Diamondbacks .417

3. Pittsburgh Pirates .417

4. San Diego Padres .400

5. Texas Rangers .365

6. Houston Astros .349

25. Seattle Mariners .229

26. San Francisco Giants .226

27. Cincinnati Reds .225

28. New York Yankees .210

29. Boston Red Sox .200

30. Oakland Athletics .137

Source: Elias Sports Bureau

Let’s look at those in a little more detail. Do they correlate to runs scored a game?

Team, POP rank, Runs scored/game rank

Tigers, 1, 1

Dbacks, 2, 6

Pirates, 3, 25

Padres, 4, 18

Rangers, 5, 8

Astros, 6, 2

Mariners, 25, 25

Giants, 26, 26

Reds, 27, 16

Yankees, 28, 21

Red Sox, 29, 17

Oakland, 30, 23

Ummmm… a little, I guess. But not really…. take OBP (please!), which everyone knows is even a better measure of team offense because it shows how good a team is at NOT MAKING OUTS AT ALL. Sorry, sorry. OBP to runs scored a game has a correlation of .865, which is about as strong a correlation as you’ll get (except maybe the inverse correlation between “decline in ESPN.com quality and number of old newspaper guys brought in to replace interesting writers”).

Correlation between productive outs and runs scored/game, based on the limited set of data he gives us? .544, which isn’t insignificant, but it’s like… Olney article:Neyer article::Produtive outs:OBP

Oh yeah, it’s that huge. And given that Olney (weirdly) only gives us six top and six bottom, I’d bet even that overstates the worth of this stat.

Here’s the huge, fatal flaw of POP:

It’s a measure of tactics and chance in a limited set of circumstances, and so it’s subject to wild variation. Do certain things happen when certain other things have already happened? It is not, and cannot be, a measure of success. Because while it purports to measure what teams do with their outs, but it totally ignores that the greatest thing a team can do when they’re up, which is NOT MAKE OUTS AT ALL. Sorry, sorry.

Let’s say you’re SUPER SMALL BALL TEAM.

Given a runner on first, you can advance them to third by giving up two outs every time. Your first guy in an inning gets on first 1/3rd of the time (a little more in practice, but bear with me), you give up two outs and… runner on third, two outs. A third of the time the fourth guy in an inning gets a hit and a run scores (that’s going to be much less in practice, but bear with me). The rest of the time he makes the third out and you score nothing:

3 innings: first batter gets on, gets moved to third with two outs

1 inning: 4th batter gets some kind of hit with two outs to score the run.

Then, with your non-productive innings (6) where you actually play baseball, the run expectation for no one on and one out is about .28, so you’d figure to score two runs in those innings on average. It scores as often in the innings where this perfect execution fails as it does when this perfect execution works as everyone wants it too.

Your team, the Productive Out Masters, now scores three runs a game. Congratulations, you’re the second-worst offensive team in the majors, ahead of only the Expos. Your team sucks.

But wait, you say, what if you only need three runs a game to win?

Please. Olney argues the Red Sox w/Schilling only need a couple runs, but go look at the game logs. Schilling doesn’t give up two runs a game consistently, so you’re punting on games…

Generally speaking, giving up an out to advance a runner does two things:

– it slightly increases the chance that one run will score

– it decreases the chance that many runs will score

The run expectation with a guy on first and no outs and a guy on second with one out is the same. It gains nothing except polite applause from the crowd for doing the little things. As Earl Weaver wrote, you should only play for one run when it’s certain that that one run will win you the game.

April 30, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Well, to expand at length on Jason’s post…. Productive outs is the worst stat anyone’s come up with in a while, and that’s not easy for me to say.

Other teams — the Anaheim Angels and the Florida Marlins, most notably — prefer to use their outs productively, by bunting, employing the hit-and-run; they put runners in motion and emphasize aggressive base-running as part of a larger strategy to put pressure on the opposing pitcher and the defense behind him.

There are several assertions when you get to this point in the article:

1) That the Red Sox are using their outs unproductively, that overall, they’re worse off for not having made a sac bunt there

2) That the Angels and Marlins employ the bunt far more often and run far more often, than the Red Sox

3) That this puts pressure on the pitcher and defense, and is good

To rebut:

1. The Red Sox offense last year destroyed everyone that stood before it, nearly. They scored runs all over the place, 961 on the year. The Angels and Marlins… Florida scored 751, and Anahiem 736. The park difference isn’t that great, folks: the Red Sox whupped on people last year.

2. The Marlins were 2nd in the NL in sacrifice hits last year, Anahiem was tied for 18th. Boston was tied for 27th, and did it half as often as Anahiem did over the season — and rated for sac hits/opportunity, that’s even more of a gap.

Florida stole 150 bases, but they did throttle way back when McKeon took over. Anahiem stole 129. Boston, only 88. But wait, was that worthwhile? The value of an extra base over an out is such that you have to steal at about over a two-thirds clip to even break even. Florida was 150-74, we’ll spot them that. Anahiem was 129-61, so that’s close enough to productive. Boston was 88-35, and so by a couple percent got more out of their running game than either of those two poster boy franchises.

But here’s the rub: the Red Sox don’t have to, for two reasons:

They hit like crazy.

They don’t have hitters that can run.

If you had a team of 9 Edgar Martinez clones, would you have them steal bases? Of course you wouldn’t — they’d get thrown out like crazy. But when the Red Sox put together a lineup of slow-running mashers, they get criticized for not running? Who cares? They won games.

3. If someone, anyone, can show me that this is true, I’ll give them $1. Because if it was true, wouldn’t the teams that play this kind of ball score more runs than the Red Sox 2003 offense? And if they don’t, why don’t they? Aren’t those significant effects?

The offenses of the Red Sox and Athletics, on the other hand, are effectively two-dimensional, eschewing the productive out within their philosophy.

Um, and they win a lot of games every year. What’s that tell you about the value of the productive out and evaluating teams by it?

Okay, time to get serious.

A Serious Critique of Productive Outs

by Derek

Productive outs is a worthless statistic, like GWRBI. To quote Olney:

“Productive out percentage is the ratio of productive outs — generally, advancing runners with the first out in an inning, or driving home a run with the second out”

So let me ask you something: can you have a productive out without a batter on base?

No? You can’t? Sooooooo let’s say I have a player that never has a runner on base when they’re up. Ever. Productive out percentage = 0% Then take a team that gets on base a lot. Ton more baserunners for this batter. A lot of those same outs — the ground-outs, the fly-outs, suddenly they’re advancing runners. Suddenly, he’s a productive out machine! Wheeeeeeeeee!!! Clubhouse leadership mantle will be awarded at a pre-game ceremony mid-season.

Productive outs is a lame proxy for on-base percentage.

Here’s why you can tell it’s a worthless stat: it’s trotted out in support of assertion the author makes, but it’s never mentioned if it doesn’t.

As club broadcasters Jim Kaat and Paul O’Neill noted last weekend, the team’s offense is built much differently than in the championship years; in those seasons, the Yankees advanced runners, put runners in motion, bunted occasionally. While they didn’t always have an overpowering offense — the notable exception being the 125-win season of 1998 — they had an efficient offense that provided the team’s typically strong pitching enough runs to win.

Poor Paul O’Neill, forced to broadcast for a team that’s not as good as it was back in his day, when he had to tie an onion to his belt, as was the fashion at the time.

Were the Yankee championship teams

1) built much differently than today?

2) advance runners more?

3) put runners in motion more?

4) bunt occasionally?

Who knows? Buster Olney doesn’t provide us with any of that, much less comparative productive out statistics for those historical teams against today’s. However…

AL Championship seasons:

1996, stole 96 bases

1998, stole 153 bases (Knoblauch)

1999, stole 104 bases

2000, stole 99 bases

2001, stole 161 bases (Soriano, Knoblauch in LF)

2003, stole 98 bases

1996, 41 sac hits

1998, 32 sac hits

1999, 22 sac hits

2000, 16 sac hits

2001, 30 sac hits

2003, 25 sac hits

2004 team on track for…. 30 SB, 46 sac hits.

So yeah, they’re not stealing any more. Soriano, who pretty much was the only Yankee stealing frequently, is gone, and no one else is around. But despite their trouble getting runners on, they’re bunting hem over more than any of those championship teams ever did. To make these kind of dumb, overly-broad assertions, mixing stats with quotes when it suits him, isn’t baseball analysis or analysis at all, and it’s a waste of internet bandwith to download.

April 29, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Well, here’s a fun article.

But Boston plays the “Moneyball” style — never bunt, don’t take chances on the bases, sit back and let your hitters hack away and do the work regardless of the game situation, regardless of the identity of the opposing pitcher.

This is just what Derek was talking about the other week, with respect to Dave Henderson’s comment about stolen bases (“Which GM was it who said the stolen base was obsolete?”). Nobody ever said “never bunt.” The Red Sox are attempting a stolen base roughly every game-and-a-half. If you want to go on and on about productive outs that’s fine, but there’s no need to likewise go on and on about this so-called “Moneyball” style. It was just one book, people!

April 29, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

All time, All Mariner team

— by games played —

DH: Edgar Martinez, 1,914

C: Dan Wilson, 1,1137

1b: Alvin Davis, 1,166

2b: Harold Reynodls, 1,155

SS: Alex Rodriguez, 790

3b: Jim Presley, 799 (no joke)

LF: —

RF: Jay Buhner, 1,440

CF: Ken Griffey Jr, 1,914

I’d forgotten about Presley. He’s not responsible for holding Edgar back (the M’s are), but looking over his career it’s easy to see what the M’s fell in love with: his power. Maybe his gaudy RBI totals, too. But here’s Presley’s lines:

1984, 22, .227/.247/.402

1985, 23, .275/.324/.484 (he’s a useful player! woo hoo!)

1986, 24, .265/.303/.463

1987, 25, .247/.296/.433

1988, 26, .230/.280/.355

1989, 27, .236/.275/.385

A danger of falling in love with what a player can do without acknowledging his limitations. At his best, he was a lot like Russ Davis: a third baseman who could knock out 20 home runs a year, not the player pushing your team towards a championship but not the guy keeping the team out, either. Presley was a little better with the glove, of course, too.

But say the team committed to Edgar full time in 1987, swapping out Presley for the young slugger. Edgar would have had three more years in his career (he played only 13, 14, and 65 games in 87-89), and would have eye-popping career numbers: maybe another 100 doubles, thirty home runs (at least), 500 hits… Most baseball players peak at 27, 28, and then it’s a matter of staving off the decline. Generally as players age they lose average, speed and defense, and they become more patient and hit for more power, and it’s a race between conditioning, experience, preparation, and inevitable aging.

Edgar didn’t get a regular job until 1990, when he was 27. Those pre-peak years are gone, wasted. Edgar belongs in the Hall of Fame now, even with those missing years. But one of the things voters consider is post-season performance, and whether the player brought home the pennants. And if you want something to be really, honestly mad about, take that: Edgar through his career has taken extremely modest salaries given his talent because he’s wanted to play for this team, and the team has taken his generosity, tied weights to it, and thrown it in the sound.

Does Edgar ever train just hard enough to be modestly competitive in the batting title race? When he’s doing his eye-strengthening exercises, do you think Edgar gets a couple done and says “that’s probably good enough for the fans”? Edgar deserves better than what this team gives him. He deserved better in 1987, he certainly deserved better when he stuck with the team in lean years, and now he’s playing on an awful team again, working his ass off because that’s what Edgar does.

If this team wanted to repay Edgar, they’d have spent all the money they squeezed out of him over the years on payroll, just this year, and spent it well, on Tejeda at short, Guerrero in right (Ichiro to center!) and Rodriguez to catch, maybe Ibanez in left, sure, maybe Batista to pitch instead of Garcia (hey, saving money on that one)… and if they had to overpay on all of those long-term deals, knowing Rodriguez would be a DH/1B in two, three years, if they put up a fight they might start to pay Edgar back for what he’s done for this team.

One of the things we rail on Bavasi about is that he didn’t have answers. How much worse is Winn than Cameron, defensively? “Oh, we think he’ll be fine.” How much defense do you think you traded for offense? “We traded some, but we’ll make it back.” How? “We brought in some veteran hitters…” How many more runs do you think you’ll score? “We’re an improved unit.”

Now the team is 7-15 — 7-15 — and Bavasi’s baffled. He still thinks he’s got a good group of veteran leaders who’ll come around because (and this is the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard for a slow start) it takes veterans longer to come together.

Funny, Bill, that didn’t happen with all the Gillick veteran teams.

No one thinks the Mariners will go .300 for the season. But doesn’t it occur to Bavasi to at least ask some questions at this point and have decent answers? If I’m driving somewhere and I get totally lost, I don’t think “Hey, I’m a veteran driver, sometimes it takes me a long time to get to my destination”. I think “Where did I go wrong? Where’s my map (and my compass!) so I can figure out how to get where I was headed?”

Edgar deserves answers to these questions, and he’s not going to get them.

April 29, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

I’ve been a stranger around these parts lately, but have no fear, I’ll be back as a regular contributor soon. Just a tough week.

Some random thoughts that I’d like to turn into longer posts, given time.

1. There’s no way around it; when it comes to in game strategy, especially handling the bullpen, Bob Melvin just isn’t very good. His ideas on how to handle a roster are questionable at best, and trying to figure out his game theory is like doing a rubix cube blindfolded with one hand. Despite that, I don’t think he’s anything close to the source of the Mariners problems, or even much of a factor at all. Bob Melvin doesn’t deserve to lose his job for the team’s poor start, and I’m not convinced that anyone on earth could make this team play better. Firing the manager is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic right now.

2. I’m still stunned that we overrated this team. I’m not sure it was possible for us to like this offseason any less than we did, outside of a contract extension for Kevin Jarvis and instituting punch-in-the-groin night perhaps, and we still missed the boat on just how badly the organization screwed this team up. Unreal.

3. For the couple of bloggers already pontificating on who the M’s could unload at the trade deadline, yes, it’s still too early. And no, Edgar Martinez isn’t available under any circumstance. Period. End of story. You do not trade Edgar.

4. Gil Meche to the bullpen is inevitable and would be a step in the right direction for the M’s. Ron Villone as the replacement, well, let’s just re-use that rearranging the deck chairs analogy.

5. As someone who downplayed the value of defense for most of my life, let me issue one giant mea culpa; we were just so wrong. Team defense is ridiculously valuable and still underrated by just about everyone in the game.

6. This isn’t any fun. Personally, this has been one of the more challenging weeks of my life, and it would have been a great time for the M’s to toss me an encouraging bone every night. Being 7-15, getting beaten by the Rangers and Orioles, playing like a team devoid of potential, well, this sucks. But I’m not giving up. The M’s aren’t this bad, and there’s still hope. Has anyone noticed that the AL West isn’t exactly stellar this year? For how good Anaheim looked against us, that is one weak first place club.

April 29, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

New GM Watch

April 29th edition

a brief comparison of GMs in their freshman year at the helm of their teams

Paul DePodesta, Dodgers, 13-7, .650[last year .525]

Dan O’Brien, Reds, 12-9, .571 [last year .426]

Bill Bavasi, Mariners, 7-15, .318 [last year .574]

I believe the Mariners last year were the best team in the major leagues last year at turning balls put into play into outs. This year they’re 23rd out of 30 teams.

April 28, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Derek’s right, of course. Guardado should have been brought in to face Palmeiro. The only thing I can think of is that he wasn’t ready, but who knows. Actually, I take that back — Derek’s probably right in saying that lefty-specialist Myers was brought in to face lefty Palmeiro, then that “closer Guardado” (not “lefty Guardado”) was brought in to face Lopez.

Hey, at least Moyer pitched decently tonight.

April 28, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

I was happy, however, to see Melvin disregard traditional closer roles and use Guardado in the game’s biggest situation — bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th, up two runs.

Well, sort of. But not really. From ESPN’s game log:

-Bottom of the 8th inning

-L Bigbie walked.

-B Roberts walked, L Bigbie to second.

-S Hasegawa relieved R Villone.

-M Mora grounded into fielder’s choice to first, L Bigbie out at third, B Roberts to second.

-M Tejada hit by pitch, B Roberts to third, M Mora to second.

-M Myers relieved S Hasegawa.

-R Palmeiro popped out to shortstop.

-E Guardado relieved M Myers.

-J Lopez grounded into fielder’s choice to shortstop, M Tejada out at second.

Why did LHP Mike Myers (“So I Signed A Bad Reliever”) pitch to lefty Palmeiro and then get removed for Guardado? Was Guardado not ready and then ready a batter later? Or was Melvin using lefty specialist Myers to get out a left-handed batter and then bringing in his closer, who happens to be left-handed, to finish off the game? And do you want Myers pitching to Palmeiro?

Also, did you notice that they had Thornton up when it looked like they need a reliever when they were behind, but when they were ahead it became the good guys? Does Melvin take naps when the team’s behind, and tell Lachemann to wake him up if the team ties or goes ahead?

Isn’t it the manager’s job to lead, to challenge his team to win? What does it mean when the guy in charge gives up when he’s losing and only gets excited and active when he’s ahead? That’s not leadership, that’s not even cheer-leading. And with a harmonious clubhouse of team players and veteran leaders, what exactly does he do for his paycheck?

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