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Monday, February 15, 2010


Either way Raul looks extremely comfortable in the confines of left field at CBP. It fits his defensive skill set.

I don't have any appreciation for UZR. But, to the extent it has some validity a big factor in Ibanez's improvement may be the percentage of times that he successfully gambled on trying to catch a ball, rather than letting it fall for a single. He did not frequently err on the side of caution last year but, I remember maybe one extra base hit resulting from his risk taking. Mr. Burrell would be aghast.

Pitchers and catchers are two days away. Maybe then we can put talk of UZRs and FIPs to rest. Play ball.

Bahhh Humbug.

PSRCT - Position yourself, see the ball, run to the ball, catch the ball and throw the ball. Think less do more. Maybe Raul also picked up the ball off the bat a little bit quicker. It's hard to stat that one, but is seems to me to be the most important factor.

I'll say only this about ANY fielding stat:

They are more reliant on human judgement and are therefore subject to more human error than batting stats.

You guys can argue over the individual stats.

Freak it I'm tired of snow I'm heading south.

Unexpected Zipper Rash?

Unemotional Zebra Rebellion?

Ugly Zit Reduction?

Uber-zen relaxation?

Upset Zambian Rastas?

( much to talk about until the pitchers and catchers arrive.)

Frostbite, heart attacks shovelling snow, cabin fever, heating bills, President's Day Holliday. Halladay. Zachar Ulysses Farkes.

Sample size? Leftfielders have been chasing balls at Safeco and CBP for years. Compare all leftfielder statisics at these parks and others for relative difficulty. We already know it's more difficult to hit doubles and triples at CBP than at larger parks, so dimensions matter. Common sense suggests that Ibanez, who is the professional actually playing out there, is right: when tasked to cover less ground, he found it easier to field his position well.

My goodness, SmokyJoe is all worked up. And all the name calling too! Bully? Clown?

Smoky, clearly some of my criticisms of your ill-considered posts have hurt you. I apologize. But a baseball blog is no place for the thin-skinned and faint of heart.

Hang in there.

Oh, and I'd love to see where it is written that WAR is the end-all, be-all of value stats.

Thanking you in advance.

Rick Russell: Exactly right.

Unrepentant Zoroastrian RaoulFan

aksmith: From last thread, I think our views on Howard are a lot closer than you think. I too have no problem letting him walk if he costs too much.

I'm just not convinced that you can subtract Howard from the lineup, replace him with LaRoche and, as you suggest, sign Lee with the leftover money and be as good a team. Howard's presence in the lineup impacts the hitters around him. And pitching is far less reliable year to year than offense (see Cliff Lee's 2006 and 2007 seasons).

Ugh, ANTOHER thread on UZR? What is going on here?

By the way concerning last threads Howard vs Werth (then at the end turned into vs. Utley as well). AWH, said what it all boils down to when he stated:

"The debate of who the Phillies should keep has more to do with the team's budget and finances"

That was my whole point as well. Both players are special in certain ways, the problem is that Werth's contract ends after the 2010 season when our payroll will already be at $132 million with 5 arb. players and 2 FA (Contreras and Werth)heading into 2011.

Even if Werth WOULD accept a 1 yr deal as some people suggest, it has ZERO chance of happening for multiple reasons, including what are the Phillies going to offer a 1 yr/7 mil deal? The money simply ISN'T there. Unless of course they increase the payroll to around $158-160, which is asking them to increase salary again another $15 million? Shouldn't really count on it.

I just don't understand why people can't just enjoy what we have here. We are in the golden age of baseball, everyone wants to be US for once. We have the best pitcher, multiple aces, great hitters, great fielders, great ballpark, great management (now). What is there to be mad about overall? Can we just stop this silly fighting and jus enjoy what we have here? I for one, am going to enjoy every inning of all 162+ games this season, because it can be over so fast, then we will really have something to complain about.

"Oh, and I'd love to see where it is written that WAR is the end-all, be-all of value stats."

WAR ::shivers::. Just to read it alone makes me cringe, then to read it while in a UZR thread makes it even worse. Let's make it a hat trick and someone mention VORP.

Yeah what Tommy said. Even those fatmouth yankee lovers are trying to start trouble. I think they're worried.

If Howard's impact on the lineup is so great, and he is so feared, then why does he walk less than both Utley and Werth?

If the theory is that his lineup presence gets more pitches to hit for Utley and Werth because they're so terrified of Howard, then wouldn't they throw more strikes to those two, and less to Howard, and thus you'd expect to see Howard with more walks? And yet, both Utley and Werth walk more than Howard. Werth also was intentionally walked just as many times last year as Howard was.

The simple fact is this: Lineup protection is a myth. It doesn't really exist, outside of a few intentional walks, which affect the overall offense over the course of the year just a tiny bit.

Jack, you must be crazy if you don't think the guy on deck or in the hole affect how a pitcher throws to the guy at bat.

Line up protection is not an accurate term. Its all about getting runners on base and forcing the pitcher to face the team's best hitters. If no one is on or there is a base open, a slugger will be pitched around; if there are runners on base then the best hitters get to bat. This is why Utley helps Howard and Werth is helped by both Utley and Howard who have high OPS.

Rick Russell and clout:

Please read the whole post. The effects of the ballpark are mostly removed from the statistic. And, even though we have a huge sample of LF playing in both parks, we have a very small sample of Ibanez playing LF, in relative terms. The whole reason for me writing this wasn't to persuade anyone, just to clear up some misconceptions. Apparently that's not possible.

Gsl: Sure, the lineup protection rationale makes sense--scary guy behind you, don't wanna put someone on base for him, etc. Without looking at any numbers, then yeah, I would agree it makes sense. And yet, why does Utley walk so much and consistently have the highest OBP on the team? If everyone was so terrified of Howard, wouldn't they stop walking Utley?

I think that it has one significant effect--8 hole hitters get more intentional walks because the pitcher is behind him. But they've done years and years of research on this--and guys' numbers simply don't change very much depending on who hits in front or behind them. I could link to a bunch of studies, or you can just Google it yourself and see them; pretty much all of them agree the quality of the on-deck hitter has no real effect on the hitter at the plate.

Hey Tom, thanks for the interesting post. How much of an impact do you think the human scorer has on this whole process? Does the scorer decide which zone the ball is in, which zone the player starts in, what the ball speed is, etc? One thing I've never been able to reconcile with UZR is how subjective the process is with relation to the final rating.

Further, I inferred from Raul's comments regarding positioning a broader context. Specifically, that he could play deeper at the Bank than at Safeco which probably played into his strengths, coming in on the ball versus going back on the ball (there was an excellent discussion of this on a different site during the year). I imagine the dimensions of the ball park allowed him to be more comfortable, as noted by Rick earlier in this thread.

Doc: Thanks for your contribution here. It was good of you to clear up some of the misconceptions that exist here about these "newfangled" stats.

Good luck convincing Clout, mvptommy and other members of the Flat Earth Society though.

"Ryan Howard's impact on a lineup is so great..."

then why does Howard have a better OPS than both Utley and Werth?

I will say this: While I don't think Raul suddenly became a great defensive player, I do think MadMax (and possibly Rick Russell, if this is what he was getting at) may be right in the sense that the dimensions of the park allowed him to play more to his strength, which is coming in on the ball. That also could be related to positioning, which the author of this post talked about.

Finally, it's entirely possible that he simply played with more confidence this year, and this improved his play. While we can't measure those sorts of psychological affects, I do think they exist, even at the MLB level, and can affect play (though probably not nearly as much as most people think).

mikes77: What does that even mean?

He's a great hitter, that's why he has a high OPS. That has nothing to do with his affect on the lineup, which is what we were discussing. Thanks for your valuable contribution though.

Doc | bss, I think we all get the gist of your post.

Still, I find it hard to fathom that different park factors, with all the different angles and padding, etc., etc., can somehow be eliminated mathematically.

Additionally, in his interview last week, Ibanez mentioned that the people watching the game and making the judgements (human factor, no?) are watching on TV. If this is true, then I think the stat has a lot of limitations.

I think we both agree that so much is missed watching it on TV that IMO it's probably not worth debating "how" much.

I'm not saying defensive stats don't have their value, but as I posted above they are much more subject to human judgement than offensive stats.

Sample size can be a misnomer. 224 observations can be more than enough to detect effect size if it is large enough and you only have a lower CI (90%). It is all about what populations you are comparing, what effects you are looking for, and what CI you are using.

As for the UZR formula, I wonder what the minimum threshold of observations (e.g., chances) they would even consider to calculate a valid number.

I would also be curious to learn a little but more about how they handle some of the input variables. Some are pretty straightforward (handedness of the hitter) but others can fluctuate moderately from season-to-season including the GB/FB ratio of the pitcher.

Devil is always in the details with these systems.

Personally, I would love to see someone take the various systems and analyze their results to determine how much annual variability there is some system to system. My bet is that the more savvy saber firms and teams have already done this and in fact worked on improving/tinkering with the statistical methodology they employ. Likely the concept of UZR/revised UZR is somewhat they addressed and moved on from at least 4-5 years ago already. Old hat.

I have generally liked the +/- minus system from Dewan a bit more than UZR or revised UZR.

Jack, I think the reason Howard is such a feared hitter is that he has raw power like no one else in the game today.

Even when he is struggling, a pitcher can make a good pitch anywhere on the plate and watch it wind up in the stands, even if he doesn't get a great swing at it.

While that is true of some other HR hitters, there are very few.

Now, while lineup protection may be a myth, I do believe his (or for that matter Pujols' or Fielder's) presence in a lineup changes the way pitchers approach the other hitters.

"If everyone was so terrified of Howard, wouldn't they stop walking Utley?"

Jack, do you think, perhaps, that Utley may have something to do with whether or not he walks?

Your question presumes that a batter has nothing to with it.

Is the pitcher "issuing" a walk, or is the batter "drawing" a walk?

Where does Jimmy Rollins rank in the UZR rankings? If it's not 1, 2, or 3, then it's junk science.

awh: No, that was my point. Utley draws walks because he's a great hitter who has good plate discipline and is good at drawing them. It has nothing to do with Howard hitting behind him.

My point was that the lineup protection theory that people are advocating would tell us that with the feared Howard hitting behind him, Utley would get a lot more pitches in the strike zone to hit. And yet, Utley draws a whole lot of walks, which you think would be the last thing a pitcher wants to do if he's truly terrified of Howard.

What happens to a hitter has pretty much everything to do with that hitter (and that pitcher) and virtually nothing to do with the guy in the on-deck circle.

Jack doesn't understand something? the hell you say....

Maybe Howard doesn't walk as much because he isn't as disciplined at the plate as utley. And maybe Howard strikes out more because he is much more of a power hitter than a contact type hitter like Utley.

From FanGraphs:

"I can’t end without giving a nod to Ryan Howard, however. The big Phillies slugger is known for his opposite field moonshots, and the numbers bear this out. Here’s Howard’s breakdown.

To Left: .701 (!!!)
To Center: .480
To Right: .327

Ryan Howard’s slugging percentage on fly balls to left field is a staggering 1.138. That’s not his OPS – that’s his SLG. 71% of all of his balls in play to left field are fly balls, and 27 percent of those leave the yard. You may remember from yesterday that the league average HR/FB for a lefty to left field was 3%. Howard’s HR/FB to left is nine times the league average."

Howard is playing at the premier power position in baseball and he is arguably the best power hitter in the game today.

Bottom line - He is a commodity that is in rare supply today in MLB (~45 HRs annually) and that is what makes him so incredibly valuable.

The question is will he be able to do that with the same consistency as he enters his mid-30s. What made Schmidt such a great hitter was that he was able to produce his best offensive seasons from ages 30-32 and he remained arguably the best power hitter in the NL until age 36 (his final MVP year in '86).

I highly doubt that Howard is among the best power hitters in the game in several years.

TTI: Those reasons are EXACTLY right. That's my whole point. Who hits ahead or behind them has nothing to do with it.

"My point was that the lineup protection theory that people are advocating would tell us that with the feared Howard hitting behind him, Utley would get a lot more pitches in the strike zone to hit."

It may very well be that he DOES see a few more pitches to hit because Howard is behind him.

Jack, the only way to really "test" this is to have Utley bat behind Howard.

Now, are there enough of those pitches to be statistically significant? Is Utley actually hitting them when they're thrown, missing them, or is he fouling them off?

I agree that lineup protection is unproven. I am simply saying certain hitters are feared more than others, and that that fear can have an effect on the game.

This may be a dumb question from a first-time poster/long-time lurker, but aren't there some differences between parks that aren't considered in the "park factors" that are statistically generated from LD/FB/GB data?

According to the UZR primer linked to by FanGraphs (, the entire field is broken up into 78 zones, of which UZR uses 64 of them.

Using some very elementary logic, if every stadium is split up into 64 zones, wouldn't the zones at Safeco be larger than the zones at Citizens Bank Park? And couldn't this difference account for Raul's improved UZR?

Also, as an FYI for those wouldn't haven't seen it, here is a chart of the actual zones used to calculate UZR:

Comparing Howard to Utley is foolish. Utley is a much better overall hitter and it is hard to argue otherwise. If you shift Utley to 1st though, he loses some of his value because a 25-30 HR hitter at 1B isn't that uncommon. It is though at 2B.

Thing I am interested to see about Howard this year is can he start to stay off stuff outside of the zone a bit more and have more willingess to take a walk.

This O-Swing has gradually increased a bit each year (25.6% in '07 to 27.3% in '09) and he is among the worst hitters in MLB at making contact on pitches out of the zone (a miserly 41.8% vs. MLB avg of 61.8%). His BB rate has also been declining at a notable clip too (16.5% in '07 to 10.7% in '09).

Howard compensated a bit for his tradeoff in patience last year by hitting more LD (23.2% vs. 22.3%) and hitting more FBs than the year before (40.6% vs. 36.2%). It is why is numbers and average were improved. More LD = more hits although his HR/FB rate has been steady and notably dropping too since '06.

It is going to be interesting to see how teams approach Howard this year. His is clearly not quite the threat he was in '06 and '07 in part because he has become more aggressive at the plate and teams have made several adjustments against him including the shift, always using a LOOGY when they can, and giving him more offspeed stuff (changeups and sliders) out of the zone.

I don't expect a notable slide this year from Howard but if he continues to seen more offspeed stuff out of the zone and chase a bit more his numbers might drop a bit across the board.

I am also curious to see how Howard fares this year against left-handed pitchers especially relievers. With a few notable exceptions last year, he stunk big time. Hell if he is facing a reliever like Feliciano who has a good slider or changeup away, it is pretty much an automatic out unless Howard coaxes a BB. Hopefully he shows a bit more patience because you cleanup hitter should be able to be so easily neutralized later in games if the opposing team has a L-L matchup available.

From the last thread:

"How many guys in the majors can do what Utley does? Hit 30 home runs, knock in 100 rbi's and steal 10+ bases, and play solid defense.

How many guys in the majors can hit almost 50 home runs a year and go for 140 RBI's per year?"

This was offered up as decisive proof of Howard's superiority to Utley. I don't see how. The question is, what is the relative value--to the cause of winning baseball games--of the ability to hit 50 HRs and 140 RBIs? Does it exceed the value of Utley's more "mundane" contributions? And how shall we account for defense?

To answer such questions we have WAR, WPA, VORP and Win Shares.

Crazy stat:

Howard hit .421 last year on Fly Balls. No one else on the team was remotely close. Utley was a mediocre .245. Werth hit .294 and Ibanez was at .308.

Guess it is pretty hard to catch a HR.

"The question is, what is the relative value--to the cause of winning baseball games--of the ability to hit 50 HRs and 140 RBIs?"

I should have said, "...of the ability to hit 50 HRs and 140 RBIs, in view of the totality of Howard's offensive output (his OBP, for instance)."

Also, I don't think appeals to Howard's ineffable qualities--the supposed fear he strikes--get us very far, discussion-wise.

"To answer such questions we have WAR, WPA, VORP and Win Shares."

DING,DING,DING. We have a winner! Congratulations you have mentioned the other 2 of my least favorite and most useless stats in baseball besides UZR in VORP and WAR.

Ugh, I am really trying to hold on here. I just keep telling myself 2 more days, just 2 days, 20 hours and 40 minutes away!

Klaus, I think you misinterpreted those questions.

They were not offered to demonstrate "superiority".

They were offered to demonstrate "rarity".

TG,TB, The Utley, thanks for the link to the "Zone" chart.

Here's a question I have for all you UZR advocates:

How do they apply that chart in places like Yankee Stadium where LF is much bigger than RF? Fenway is the opposite. How would they do it at Petco?

Do they eliminate some zones LF in parks like Fenway or just shrink them?

Also, as MadMax## asks above, how in the world does a guy or gal watching on TV determine what zone the ball is in, or even where the fielder started?

"They were offered to demonstrate "rarity"."

Possibly. Are Howard's gifts relatively more magnificent than Utley's--more pleasing to the gods? Yes. Are they more valuable to the cause of winning baseball games? In my opinion, no.

awh, so just because Howard's skills (and the results) are rare, does it mean it's worth more? Is the Gnome worth so much more becuase he is such a rare player? Shouldn't worth be tied to value? Aren't the perennial best teams the ones that can maximize value?

My fear if we sign Howard to a 5 year $130 million contract is that in a few years it will be compared to Vernon Wells.

Tommy: ...2 of *my* least favorite and most useless stats..." [emphasis added]

Well, in that case...

An interesting tidbit about J-Roll from Crashburn Alley:

"Was his sub-par season — both at the plate and in the field — an aberration, or is it the first step towards the end of Jimmy Rollins’ career? It seems that his problem last year was due to hitting too many fly balls, nullifying his speed. From 2008 to ‘09, he had an increase of 10.5% in fly balls hit. As a result, his BABIP hit a career low .253 compared to his career average of .295. If Rollins can get back to getting on base at an above-average rate, then he can also get back to putting his speed to good use. Should Rollins bounce back, the Phillies may have one of the most dangerous 1-2 punches in baseball in Rollins and Polanco."

Quit swinging for the fences Jimmy! You may have some power but you're not a power-hitter.

Jack: "What happens to a hitter has pretty much everything to do with that hitter (and that pitcher) and virtually nothing to do with the guy in the on-deck circle."

Well, let's see if I have this straight. You admit that the pitcher does have something to do with whether a batter walks. Yet the guy on deck has nothing to do with whether a batter walks. Therefore when a pitcher throws to a batter, who's on deck does not factor in any way into how he approaches that batter.

And yet virtually every pitcher I've ever seen interviewed on the subject says that the on deck batter DOES impact his approach to the guy he's facing (as do a number of other factors of course.)

The book on Ibanez was that he had trouble going back on balls, but was good coming in on balls. We definitely saw that last year. So it makes sense that his defensive game is better suited for Citizen's Bank Park than Safeco. It is much the same way if a RH batter can pepper balls off the green monster in Fenway, he may be uniquely suited for that park. I don't see how making a generic park factor can take the individual skills of a player into account. I also agree with Ibanez' comments about judging defensive play by watching the games on TV. The television camera is focused on the pitcher/batter until the ball is in play.

MG: "I highly doubt that Howard is among the best power hitters in the game in several years."

What makes you think this? Has he shown any signs of losing power?

Smokey, I have not argued any of your points. I was merely indicating to Klaus that I think he misinterpreted the questions.

Now, if you go back and read the context of the original posts, the discussion centered around who's production would be easier to "replace" (even through free agency), not who's more "valuable".

The point was there a more 30/100/10 guys at various positions than there are 45/135 guys.

Billy Mac: "The book on Ibanez was that he had trouble going back on balls, but was good coming in on balls. We definitely saw that last year. So it makes sense that his defensive game is better suited for Citizen's Bank Park than Safeco."

And yet our stats maven says UZR takes park differences into account and neutralizes them. Ibanez's huge jump in UZR is just a sample size aberration.

Are you going to believe the stat or your lying eyes?

I submit the following non-sabermetric evaluation of Raul's glove work....

I submit the following non-sabermetric evaluation of Raul's glove work:

The comments to this entry are closed.

EST. 2005

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