January 2012

Can Huff 2010 in 2012? #SFGiants

Aubrey Huff, not present day

My other post title for this was “How odd is Aubrey Huff?” because you probably know by now, whether you call it a dead cat bounce, the roller coaster, upsies-downsies, the odd-even syndrome, you know Aubrey Huff has problems with playing in years that end in an odd number. Why? Iono. Gotta be between the ears though that causes him to do all the nothing he was doing after the 2010 World Series though. I believe they call it “resting on your laurels.” Most people by now grudgingly agree that yea, ok, you helped us to the first WS title we’ve ever seen in SF, you can get your pass… but no more! Dude’s getting paid $10MM in 2012, AKA “money I will never ever make.” As we look at the Giants preparing we look at what needs to happen and no doubt about it, Huff is a big key.

Yea. I’ll say. In fact, while we’re at it, you wanna take a look at his stats from all those odd years he’s played in the bigs? Of course you do. Let’s not pretend you have something else to do:

For those looking at the letter combinations going “WTF?” “ISO” stands for “Isolated Power” which is measured by Slugging percentage minus batting average. Let’s just say an ISO over .200 is pretty good to keep it simple. If you’ve had the uh… pleasure? of reading my stuff before I’ve talked about wOBA and wRC+ before. Both good individual measures for evaluating a player. 100 though for wRC+ is considered league average, so keep that in mind if this is the first time you’re seeing it. The 6 year average is for those 6 odd number years you see there and the 5 year average takes out the year 2011 since he played a lesser number of games then. 2003 was a pretty good year for him, wasn’t it? Tampa sure must’ve loved that when they were horrible. Now let’s compare those numbers to something like his even numbered years:

The year that was taken out for the 5 year average was the year 2000. In those 5 years though, take a look at the magic Huff has been up to in his even years: every year 20+ HR, K% below 14%, ISOs above .200 just about in every year save for that .197, pretty good batting averages, OBPs, wOBA and wRC+ in every year but 2006 where you could say he was a little better than average. The only thing the odd years have over the even years is the number of G and PA he averages, which is interesting but in the end you look at the numbers they put up for a guy like Huff who’s making 8 figures.

Huff says he’s doing the pilates thing that made him what he was in 2010. The dude is -gulp- 35 and he may need to do a little more than pilates to get him back to 2010 form. But he makes it sound like it’s hit him: I gotta be in shape to compete. Pablo’s realized that, Timmy’s realized that, Matt Cain realized it a while ago and Melky figured it out the same time Pablo did. Huff’s figured it out at age 35. Should we expect the world of Huff? No, that wouldn’t be fair. Should we expect a line of over 500 PAs, 20 HRs, 9-10% BB%, an ISO at .180+ and a wRC+ at 110 or higher? Yea, I think that’s absolutely fair and kinda believe in my “I like to believe people” brain that he can do that. I’m not gonna bet anything on it, but that’s what I expect from him.

So to answer the question, “Can Huff 2010 in 2012?” I say the realistic answer is “No,” although he shouldn’t be too far away, but I invite and beg him to prove me wrong.

 

Why Batting Average Fails, and Two Stats You Can Move On To

Not the best batting average, but #2 OBP and #1 in wOBA.

I am not a professor of baseball. I am not an expert of baseball. I have not been a nerd-baseball-head for years upon years, but we live in a culture where when you think about someone’s batting stats, batting average is probably one of the first things you think of. Most fantasy baseball leagues encourage this as well in your basic 5×5 categories that have R, HR, RBI, SB and AVG and that probably drives the idea deeper that batting average is important. Well, it might be in winning your league, however since those Sabermetrics (and please remember Billy Beane did not write Moneyball) have come about, the times have changed. I’d be willing to say even as recent as last year, I still bought into batting averages, but I read what people had to say and saw baseball experts make fun of and put down others that suggested those were reliable measures to evaluate a hitter.

That's all that happens at the plate, right?

When I look at statistics now I try to ask myself, “What does this category accomplish? What is it evaluating?” and with batting average you ask yourself the same thing. What does a “batting average” evaluate? In mathematical terms, it’s just hits divided by at-bats. It’s a very simple statistic and I can see why people like it. Easy math. Keep in mind though that plate appearances can also be counted as walks, intentional walks, hit-by-pitches, or sacrifice bunts and flies. So already we’ve established that batting average is missing something in terms of what a player can possibly contribute. If baseball were an easy game, players would have batting averages in the .800s and .900s and pitchers would probably be paid the league minimum on every team. But baseball is not an easy sport. There are times when it takes a little luck to hit that ball and have it drop 5 feet in front of the LF, or for it to just sneak under the glove of the 1B who happens to have one of the best defensive-zone ratings in the league. But I digress. My goal with those statements is to make you believe that batting average is not the best evaluation of a hitter. If you haven’t been introduced to them already, let me introduce you to 2 offensive stats I like to look at that aren’t too nerdy.

You can read the Fangraphs article about OBP here as it tells you the same thing (or probably better) than how I’m going to talk about it. I didn’t even tell you what OBP is though, and it is “On Base Percentage,” simply put: how often did the player reach base — whether 1st, 2nd, 3rd or home? As you can see with the formula, it has hits, walks (both unintentional and intentional) and hit by pitches over ABs, walks, and sacrifices (because you don’t reach base with a sacrifice). Most of the time the goal of baseball is what but to get on base. I don’t care who you are but if you liked someone like Starlin Castro for example in 2011 who has a batting average of .307 better than Troy Tulowitzki because Tulo hit only .302, you’re crazy because Starlin’s OBP is .341 while Tulo’s is .372 in 2011 (and for other reasons, too, in my opinion). Or Melky Cabrera (.305/.339) vs. Lance Berkman (.301/.412) in 2011. As for how to measure a “good” OBP and whatevers, I’m going to include this graphic from Fangraphs to help out… mostly because I chuckle when I see a certain name:

Yea. Aubrey Huff did that in 2010. And since 2012 is an even year and he’s doing crazy pilates, we can expect that again in 2012. But anyway, that was OBP. Like it? Of course you do. Let me introduce you to my 2nd stat I like: wOBA. (I do like a lot of other stats though!)

While you may be unsure how to pronounce “wOBA,” it stands for “weighted On Base Average.” Why is this stat important to me? Well, it certainly isn’t because of the mathematical formula that’s used to calculate it:

The wOBA formula

Now, how Tom Tango explains it in his math language here I could never do on my own so if you want to dive more into it there, or at your friendly Fangraphs site (but not by Tom Tango) by all means go for it. But here’s what wOBA does: it recognizes that not all methods of reaching base are created equal. While SLG% or “slugging percentage” as you might have heard about makes an effort to do this, it basically is saying that doubles are worth twice as much as singles, triples 3x as much, and so on as you’ll see here in the formula to calculate slugging percentage…

…when it really is hard to say that that is the case. You also get into trouble when you start considering not every ballpark athletes play in are the same and that opens a whole ‘nother avenue to another statistic. So Tango used that wOBA formula above and had to tinker with the coefficients a bit before he got it to have the numbers line with the OBP numbers. Why not the batting average numbers? I don’t know the answer but I’m going to assume he probably didn’t want to encourage batting average as a reference to evaluate a player. wOBA takes an impact at what the player does at the plate (including walks) and does a better job of it than SLG%, in my opinion.

So while this was a bit lengthy, I hope that if you came in reading thinking batting averages were good, or you didn’t know other ways to evaluate a player offensively, you have a couple new tools in your pocket. I hope I’ve opened up the door for more learning and I also hope this wasn’t dreadfully boring.

We Will Whine Because We Have Nothing Else To Do #Vogelsong #SFGiants

The truth is we kind of expected the Giants to offer Vogelsong two years, and they did. We didn’t want them to, but they did. And now, we have to get over it and accept that he’ll be here competing with Barry Zito for the 2012-2013 seasons as the “what the F happened to these guys?” award. Both of course going in different directions. Since the cool thing to do is quote the breaking news tweets why don’t I do the same:

Mr. Urban, definitely more credible than other journalists I’ve read about who may or may not be from Boston and share the last name of the first name of a former US President. Or maybe he’s not. I donno. I’m in Long Beach.

Indeed it would’ve been a fascinating arbitration case because he had such a tremendous year last year putting up video game numbers (well for me playing video games) on the mound. By 2013 though I hope we hear less of the phrase, “His story is amazing!” like I hope they stop replaying the Scott Cousins-Buster Posey highlight. I swear that garbage is on everyday.

My only complaints with this deal are that: 1) it’s more than one year and 2) if it has a buyout in that option that’s less money in the rainy day fund and 3) Barry Zito is still on the team. That’s pretty much it. Even if he pitches poorly it’ll be hard for me to get that upset over the deal.

The “Hall of Fame” is not the “Hall of Feel:” A Plea from a Fan

This is not a post about Jack Morris. This is not about Edgar Martinez. It’s not even about saying the BBWAA is a group of scammers, because that’s not what I believe. What I do believe is that there are writers who use what they’ve seen and will ignore the facts to either check or not check a box on the ballot. Do I have the “ballot envy” guys like Joe Strauss suggest I might have? Maybe a little, but I know relatively so little about these players (and have done just as little research on said players) I actually do not feel worthy to vote on them, much less suggest who should on. But we all have that feeling that something isn’t right about what some writers are doing, and for me it’s that they make their decision emotional.

I know you don’t come on here to read whom I think the Hall of Fame should house, but I’ll tell you anyway: The Hall of Fame should have the best of the best, and they should be in there based on fact, not based on legend. When I go to Cooperstown one day with my kids in the future and show them the plaques, I want to see numbers and not something like “he was the clutchiest of clutch” or “it seemed like he was perfect every time” when the numbers could debunk both statements in a heartbeat.

Voters are using different sets of numbers nowadays — some are using advanced statistics, and some are not. Reputation travels fast amongst the internet community who is a respectable voice and who is not as we saw yesterday — and while we’ll respect their right to an opinion it does not necessarily mean we will respect their opinion. It would be odd though if every voter voted the same so we will always have this discussion in my opinion.

So voters voting with your memory and old video I ask you to please, for the future of baseball, think about the numbers you are using: what do those numbers mean? Were those numbers a result of a mostly individual effort or were they a result of the team they played on? Nobody and especially me cannot take away the way you feel for a certain athlete, but I ask that you let go of the feelings you have the for the player a little bit and use numbers that speak more to the individual fame that a player has contributed over his time in our wonderful game.

Baseball’s Newest Superhero: Thank You, Randy Miller

So we’re all just sittin’ around, talking about Jack Morris and Alan Trammel when BOOM someone is putting it out there they sent in a blank ballot. On purpose. Yea, I know, right? Not even Barry Larkin. Who cares he got 86%, not even Barry Larkin? Really? But anyway, this guy, Randy Miller of Philadelphia set up the pins for people to knock ‘em down. Consider this a history of the wonderful-ness that transpired.

Ugh.

Wah.

Randy Miller sent in 9 ballots?

I don’t judge by batting average alone, but here’s a batting average!

We want to attack the loser that put it out there that he left his ballot blank.

Oh ok, that makes your decision valid! #no

The outrage of voting someone in that belonged there!

Here’s where the fun begins.

“Saberboy???” AHAHAHAHA

OBP is advanced for the simple man.

I have things to say, too! Someone listen to me! Anybody! Somebody?…

See! Look! Mat Latos! Evil! Ha!

Yay, name calling!

Some people got really into this. Not me though. Nope.

Look how excited everyone is!

And thus, a happy ending to an otherwise uneventful day after 3pm PST.

Roster Forecast… for 2013 #SFGiants

Ideally I would write this post after the Lincecum/Cain situation is sorted out. But I’m bored. January 4th, college football is doing its annual kill-me-now-just-end-already portion of their season and baseball is still more than a month away — 40-something days I’m hearing. But as dumb as it is to try and forecast something that will happen in 2013, it’s not going to stop me from trying. There’s going to be so much that happens in 2012 that my predictions for the varying scenarios in 2013 will probably all be at least 75% wrong. I’m like Aubrey Huff at the plate. Take a look at what is on tap for 2013 as of 1/4/2012:

What you should take from this is all the “FA” notes you see next to the different names. Freddy Sanchez, Jeremy Affeldt, Aubrey Huff has a $2MM buyout that the Giants will inevitably exercise and Aaron Rowand and his absolutely horrible 5-year contract is finally off the books. You might be thinking: “Stuart, what about when the Giants win the World Series in 2012 won’t they pick up Huff’s option?” To that I say: “What, and sacrifice Brandon Be– ah shit, you’re right.” Brandon Belt as we know is the ugly duckling in the eyes of the management for some reason unbeknownst to us common folk. Oh by the way, Barry Zito makes $20MM in the final year of his even stupider contract (with a $7MM buyout in 2014). As you see, there’s $26.25MM committed to 2013 thus far (but to only 3 players). This leaves us roughly $100MM of rainy days to disperse to about 22 gentlemen. Here’s what I think it’ll look like if we live in Larry Baer’s world of keeping Timmy and Matty… and Brian Wilson:

The Matt and Tim numbers assume they were able to pull off some sort of deal without going into arbitration because if they’re not able to, then we could be looking at a $130MM payroll and we all know what that means: someone’s gotta go. You’ll see I made my own free agent signings in there and I may have not given MadBum enough in his first arbitration eligible year or Brandon Belt… I mean, he may be making $550,000. I probably overpaid for Erick Aybar and Melky Cabrera but the moment you think, “They wouldn’t overpay like that for Player X” I’ll just point out the Zito, Rowand and Huff contracts to you. Remember, we just won the World Series in 2012. We’ll probably hear that the 2013 payroll, much like the 2012 one, will probably be “maxed out” if we were to see something like that. However, if Lincecum or Cain is let go then we’re going to have some big changes in terms of what the roster will look like. Who knows if Surkamp will be ready or if Vogelsong will even still be around then. If the Giants don’t pick up prospects from a trade of Lincecum or Cain or even just let one of them walk and get draft picks out of them, 2013-2014 could be pretty rough on the Giants and we may begin to see the dark clouds come over AT&T.

Maybe I’ll do one of these again with scenarios of one of the two big stars leaving, but really there’s so much uncertainty with that, I might just wait until later to forecast something like that.

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