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Posts Tagged ‘UZR/150’

While it was generally accepted that the Giants would be a team to be reckoned with in 2010, GM Brian Sabean started the party early, acquiring first baseman Ryan Garko from the Indians and second baseman Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates.  My prediction is that these two players will help the deliver the Giants an NLCS championship.  They are huge upgrades over the production that the Giants are currently getting from these positions.  At first base, the Giants received a .747 OPS, ranked 25th in the league, and at second, a .601 OPS, good for a rank of 28. 

Sanchez brings to the table a .776 OPS, and will probably give the giant an extra fifteen runs above average based on weighted on-base average.  Garko owns a .826 OPS, and based on the same statistics, should give the Giants an extra five runs over their current production.  Over the course of 61 games, twenty runs is nothing to shake a stick at.  An extra .33 runs per game would move them from the 27th ranked offence in runs scored to 23rd, a significant increase.  If you add .33 runs per game to their current statistics this season, their Expected Pythagorean Record winning percentage would jump from a pedestrian .532 to .615.  To put that in perspective, the Yankees and Dodgers are leading the league with a .614 winning percentage. 

Already leading the Wild Card Race, the Giants, barring a serious injury to Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain, should slide comfortable into the postseason.  This is when they will be the most dangerous.  Lincecum and Cain form the most dangerous 1-2 punch in the NL, and will be extremely effective in a post-season series.  Let’s take a look at the Giants new and improved roster.

Lineup

C – Bengie Molina (80 OPS+)

1B – Ryan Garko (114 OPS+, 12.1 UZR/150)

2B – Freddy Sanchez ( 109 OPS+, 6.3 UZR/150)

3B – Pablo Sandoval (142 OPS+, -1.07 UZR/150)

SS – Edgar Renteria (65 OPS+, -1.9 UZR/150)

LF – Fred Lewis (93 OPS+, 3.0 UZR/150)

CF – Aaron Rowand (102 OPS+, 8.4 UZR/150)

RF – Randy Winn (86 OPS+, 15.1 UZR/150)

Utility IF – Juan Uribe (94 OPS+, 7.38 UZR/150)

On average, this line-up has an OPS+ of 98.3, barely below league average.  When you combine that with their stellar pitching, they will be a force to be reckoned with.  They are also an above average defensive squad, with a cumulative UZR/150 of 49.31 among these nine players.  This is 49 runs that the Giants will save on defence alone. 

Pitching

SP – Tim Lincecum (2.30 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 1.99 FIP)

SP – Matt Cain (2.27 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.81 FIP)

SP – Barry Zito (4.54 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 4.37 FIP)

SP – Jonathan Sanchez (4.92 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 4.33 FIP)

SP – Randy Johnson (4.81 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 4.91 FIP)

Bullpen – (3.37 ERA , 1.32 WHIP, 3.74 ERA)

While starters three through five leave much to be desired, Lincecum and Cain are so dominant and throw so many innings that the Giants still have second best starting pitcher ERA in the league.  The bullpen is ranked third.  Even when you factor out the excellent fielding; the starters and relievers rank third and fourth respectively in FIP.

Even though Sabean gave up a big part of the future in Tim Alderson to acquire Sanchez, it was well worth it.  So there you have it folks, the 2009 NL Champion San Francisco Giants.

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After the Tampa Bay Rays emerged as one of the top teams in baseball last year due to their improved defense, stats geeks and baseball fans alike fell in love with the Ultimate Zone Rating statistic.  While the stat is the most comprehensive one we have to quantify defence, and there has been proven correlations between increased UZR and wins, many writers are taking it way too far. 

In an article on Sports Illustrated today written by Ben Reiter, he talks about how an improved defense has helped the Los Angeles Dodgers in one-run ball games.

Dodgers players and coaches believe that their newly stingy defense has not only allowed them to prevent runs on the whole, but also to prevent them when it matter most: in tight ball games. “When it comes down to close games, that’s when you really notice it,” Kershaw said. “The sure-handed teams seem to win those close games.” L.A. is a remarkable 19-9 in games decided by one run.

Yes, LA improved their UZR/150 from -6.0 to -.6 from 2008 to 2009, and seen their record in one run games improve from 19-24 to 19-9.  However, this is only one team and there are a variety of other factors that could explain the improved record.  The Dodgers have also lowered their Fielding Independant Pitching from 3.86 to a MLB best 3.67 and their bullpen ERA from 3.34 to a MLB best 3.21.  These are other stats that can have huge implications on a team’s record in one run games. 

My other problem is that 71 games is a fairly small sample size.  I want to take a look at how UZR/150 correlated to win loss record during the 2008 season for all teams.  This is 681 games worth of data.  For starters, I ran the numbers in Excel and there was no correlation between winning percentage and UZR/150.

We can also take a look at these numbers with the naked eye.  I split the league into three tiers, the top ten UZR/150 teams, the middle ten and bottom ten.  What a surprise.  The top tier had a winning percentage of .499 in one run games, the middle tier .489 and the bottom tier the best percentage with .513.  Good defence does not necessarily win close ball games.  I am sure if I ran the data in different years I would have different results.  A team’s record in one run games cannot be predicted with UZR/150.

So please baseball writers, stop asking baseball players and managers who are not statistic oriented to comment on something that they do not understand.  I am sure Kershaw thinks that his team’s new and improved defence is winning them ball games, and it makes for a great story, but the numbers do not back it up.  It also looks silly when your entire article is based on how UZR improvement correlates to more wins.

If there is one downside to the statistical revolution in baseball it is that everyone thinks they are an expert, and I am not excluding myself on this one, which leads to some pretty dumb things being said and written.

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