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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:19 pm 
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jaybee24 wrote:
It's not intuitive, but a significant amount of statistical work has shown that pitchers simply do not have the sustained ability to control where the ball is going.


Pitchers have no control over where the ball is going when it leaves their hand or when it leaves the hitter's bat? Or both?

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:27 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
jaybee24 wrote:
It's not intuitive, but a significant amount of statistical work has shown that pitchers simply do not have the sustained ability to control where the ball is going.


Pitchers have no control over where the ball is going when it leaves their hand or when it leaves the hitter's bat? Or both?


Sorry...I meant when it leaves the hitter's bat. (Physically speaking, pitchers don't have any control over it when it leaves their hand, since they've already imparted force to the ball, but that's not what I meant.)

Like I said, the use of BABIP to support this theory can be taken too far, and like you said, you definitely need to consider other factors, like whether the pitcher is inducing weak hits by keeping batters off balance. But a BABIP significantly above or below league average warrants further examination as to whether a pitcher is simply lucky or unlucky.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:30 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:
That said, I do it for a reason. Because my "cliche" is meant to imply that Maholm can certainly sustain, as No. 9 points out, his ability to change speeds, pitch inside and keep the ball low. That can be attributed to "getting better" as you mature. Whereas, the regression comments are the first attempts to tell everyone that Malholm is heading back into the statistical box you've created for him, and from which he can never escape.

ZM


LOL. You're really having problems with the word "regression," aren't you?

In terms you might better appreciate, then: I concede that it's altogether possible that Maholm has "stepped up his game" to an heretofore unknown "whole new level." In fact, you and I agree on this: I think he has. Nonetheless, he's currently pitching "above his head," unless he's somehow been possessed by the spirit of Christy Mathewson. Yesterday's "gutty performance" notwithstanding, he's going to "fall off the pace" somewhat. Now, whether the baseline he returns to resembles his career norms, or some newly achieved, higher plateau is an interesting and worthy topic for discussion.

For my part, I'll be pleased as punch with Paul Maholm if he pitches 200+ innings to the tune of his current FIP of 3.61. If he does that, he's truly put his team "in a position to win" "every time he takes the mound."

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:34 pm 
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jaybee24 wrote:
Jaybee -
If I'm reading this right . . . according to league average . . . if a batter puts his bat on the ball . . . he will (on average) safely get a hit almost 30% of the time. Right?
No. 9


That's the basic idea, excluding home runs, which are not considered "in play" as far as BABIP is concerned. The idea there is that if a ball is hit so hard that it goes over the wall, it doesn't matter if it was hit toward someone or not. [/quote]

I guess this is a reason why I have a hard time reconciling the idea that a strikeout is just as acceptable as an out resulting from putting a ball in play. If, on average, a batter has a 30% chance of reaching safely when a ball is put in play . . . isn't that a 30% better chance than when he spins around in the batter's box and walks back to the dugout? Not to mention that, when a ball is put in play, runners can advance, errors can be made, etc. There is really nothing good that can result from a strike out (assuming that the catcher catches the ball) and it appears to me that there are a significant number of outcomes that can be considered positive when a ball is put in play - whether or not an out is recorded.

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:42 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
jaybee24 wrote:
No. 9 wrote:
Jaybee -
If I'm reading this right . . . according to league average . . . if a batter puts his bat on the ball . . . he will (on average) safely get a hit almost 30% of the time. Right?
No. 9


That's the basic idea, excluding home runs, which are not considered "in play" as far as BABIP is concerned. The idea there is that if a ball is hit so hard that it goes over the wall, it doesn't matter if it was hit toward someone or not.


I guess this is a reason why I have a hard time reconciling the idea that a strikeout is just as acceptable as an out resulting from putting a ball in play. If, on average, a batter has a 30% chance of reaching safely when a ball is put in play . . . isn't that a 30% better chance than when he spins around in the batter's box and walks back to the dugout? Not to mention that, when a ball is put in play, runners can advance, errors can be made, etc. There is really nothing good that can result from a strike out (assuming that the catcher catches the ball) and it appears to me that there are a significant number of outcomes that can be considered positive when a ball is put in play - whether or not an out is recorded.


Hold on, I don't think we're disagreeing. It's definitely better from a pitcher's perspective if the batter strikes out.

I'm saying that if a pitcher has a BABIP lower than the league average, he might just be lucky. And if the pitcher has a low K/9 rate and a low ground ball rate, those are even stronger indicators that luck is playing a big role in his success.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:59 pm 
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LtCol Kojak Slaphead wrote:
LOL. You're really having problems with the word "regression," aren't you?


I'm not really looking for an R^2 = +.9, but as you scan the history of my posting, the concept of regression gets very clear.

Quote:
In terms you might better appreciate, then: I concede that it's altogether possible that Maholm has "stepped up his game" to an heretofore unknown "whole new level." In fact, you and I agree on this: I think he has. Nonetheless, he's currently pitching "above his head," unless he's somehow been possessed by the spirit of Christy Mathewson. Yesterday's "gutty performance" notwithstanding, he's going to "fall off the pace" somewhat. Now, whether the baseline he returns to resembles his career norms, or some newly achieved, higher plateau is an interesting and worthy topic for discussion.

For my part, I'll be pleased as punch with Paul Maholm if he pitches 200+ innings to the tune of his current FIP of 3.61. If he does that, he's truly put his team "in a position to win" "every time he takes the mound."


Thanks for speaking englishese. We'll take it "one game at a time" then.

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 3:34 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:

Thanks for speaking englishese. We'll take it "one game at a time" then.

ZM

Will do. "I'm just here to help the team any way I can."

FWIW, fangraphs' Eric Seidman posted an article on this very topic today that hits a lot of the points I tried to make in the OP, albeit less cogently. (To clarify: LtCol Kojak Slaphead = less cogent.)

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-buccos-rotation

Funny to note that stats guys have their own set of shopworns: "pitching to contact," "bailed out by the defense," "missing bats," etc.

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:17 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:
Funny how a less-than-perfect game becomes a "regression" as opposed to "not having his best stuff today". Or, still giving yourself a chance to win.

ZM


GEEZ!
I agree Mike. You cannot pitch a shutout every time out. All I want from the starting pitching is to keep us in the game, give us a chance to win. So far, in all but a couple games, I will take it.

And you know, every time you pitch a shutout, I suppose you regress the next game, unless you pitch another shutout, then at some point you are going to regress.

Go Bucs!

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 5:46 pm 
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The average for BABIP, league-wide, is just a bit below .300. Therefore, on average, for balls that can be fielded, a bit more than 70% turn into outs. Or multiple outs - which is something that BABIP does not consider.

Specifically, the stat on BABIP does not reflect that certain at-bats that turn into outs actually result in two outs. That is a failing in the stat.

The difference for a team with contact/ground ball pitchers, like the Pirates, is significant. The double plays result in fewer runs and run scoring chances.

Also, as has been discussed, ground ball contact does not equal fly ball or line drive contract. Fly balls actually have the lowest batting average, but in the vast majority of occasions, ground balls are either outs, multiple outs, or singles.

Ground ball out, ground ball single, ground ball single, double play. The BABIP is .500. The number of runs = 0.

Finally, the stat on BABIP does not take into account pitch count. It is undisputed but that the combined leage batting average for a 1-0 count is well below the average for hitters facing an 0-1 count. In both situations, if the hitter makes contact with the second pitch and puts it in play, the result will go into the BABIP calculation.

But we know that the results for these batted balls are significantly different, by something like .100 points in batting average. How can this be?

The answer is that an 0-1 pitch is not the same as a 1-0 pitch. The 0-1 can be a 2-seamer on the knees, or a breaking ball on the very edge of the outside corner. Meanwhile, the 1-0 is more likely to be a fastball and get more of the plate. Thus, the different outcomes.

Therefore, the BABIP calculation does not do justice to pitchers who get ahead consistently, nor does it take into account the percentage of ground balls induced, nor does it consider double plays.

If the Pirates contact pitchers - Duke, Maholm and Karstens in particular - get ahead in the count, induce ground balls, and avoid walks, they can maintain success. So, I take the position that Joe Kerrigan is right, even when considering BABIP.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:03 pm 
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Bucfan wrote:
The average for BABIP, league-wide, is just a bit below .300...


I would give this post an "A", except:

1. You didn't include the required picture... of somthing, and;
2. You did not use one or more tired cliche's.

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:34 pm 
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Bucfan wrote:
The average for BABIP, league-wide, is just a bit below .300. Therefore, on average, for balls that can be fielded, a bit more than 70% turn into outs. Or multiple outs - which is something that BABIP does not consider.

Specifically, the stat on BABIP does not reflect that certain at-bats that turn into outs actually result in two outs. That is a failing in the stat.

The difference for a team with contact/ground ball pitchers, like the Pirates, is significant. The double plays result in fewer runs and run scoring chances.

Also, as has been discussed, ground ball contact does not equal fly ball or line drive contract. Fly balls actually have the lowest batting average, but in the vast majority of occasions, ground balls are either outs, multiple outs, or singles.

Ground ball out, ground ball single, ground ball single, double play. The BABIP is .500. The number of runs = 0.

Finally, the stat on BABIP does not take into account pitch count. It is undisputed but that the combined leage batting average for a 1-0 count is well below the average for hitters facing an 0-1 count. In both situations, if the hitter makes contact with the second pitch and puts it in play, the result will go into the BABIP calculation.

But we know that the results for these batted balls are significantly different, by something like .100 points in batting average. How can this be?

The answer is that an 0-1 pitch is not the same as a 1-0 pitch. The 0-1 can be a 2-seamer on the knees, or a breaking ball on the very edge of the outside corner. Meanwhile, the 1-0 is more likely to be a fastball and get more of the plate. Thus, the different outcomes.

Therefore, the BABIP calculation does not do justice to pitchers who get ahead consistently, nor does it take into account the percentage of ground balls induced, nor does it consider double plays.

If the Pirates contact pitchers - Duke, Maholm and Karstens in particular - get ahead in the count, induce ground balls, and avoid walks, they can maintain success. So, I take the position that Joe Kerrigan is right, even when considering BABIP.


You're absolutely right that BABIP requires context. To provide some, I took a look at the ground ball to fly ball ratios that the Pirates had from last year and this year.

2008 ground ball to fly ball ratio: 0.80
2009 ground ball to fly ball ratio: 0.68

2008 ratio of ground ball outs to fly ball outs: 1.17
2009 ratio of ground ball outs to fly ball outs: 0.86

The Pirates are having more success this year despite giving up more fly balls than ground balls compared to last year. That's not a good sign, and is even more indication that their below league average BABIP is fueled by either an awesome defense or luck. Again, I'm not ruling out an improved defense...maybe Nyjer Morgan, Andy LaRoche, and Brandom Moss/Craig Monroe are making a big difference. I'd have to look at their numbers. However, I'm suspecting that a significant reason for that low BABIP is luck, which doesn't bode well.

I also took a look at pitch counts, comparing ratios of counts that ended ahead (0-1, 0-2, 1-2) to counts that ended behind (1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1, 3-1):

2008 counts ahead/behind ratio: 0.75
2009 counts ahead/behind ratio: 0.90

So Pirate pitchers are getting ahead of hitters more at the start of this year compared to last year, which is a good thing...even though they are giving up more fly balls, they might be weaker pop-ups, and the ground balls they are giving up might be weaker as well. So conversely, that's a good sign.

Finally, I took a look at line drive percentages (line drives divided by total balls put into play), the obvious assumption being that giving up line drives is bad. A team giving up a lot of line drives who is still winning is probably getting lucky, with line drives being hit right at fielders.

2008 line drive percentage: 19.2%
2009 line drive percentage: 18.7%

2008 OBP against Pirates on line-drives: .750
2009 OBP against Pirates on line-drives: .649

Those numbers do not bode well at all for the Pirates. They're giving up essentially the same proportion of line drives this year as they did last year (when they were awful, as we all remember). However, other teams aren't getting on base nearly as often when the ball is being hit hard this year as compared to last year. My interpretation of this difference is that line drives are being hit right at guys so far in 2009, and therefore, Pirate pitchers have been getting lucky. Any critique of my reasoning here would be appreciated; maybe I'm missing something. But I can't think of any way to positively frame the reduced conversion of line drives into hits, other than increased range of the defense, and I still don't think even a greatly improved overall defensive range would explain away that 100 point difference in OBP on liners.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:00 pm 
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As an amendment to my last post, my conclusion stemming from OBP on liners may have been incorrect, as I should compare that stat to a league average. In other words, maybe it isn't that the Pirates are lucky on liners this year...maybe they were just unlucky on liners last year. Maybe both. At any rate, I'll look it up later.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:12 pm 
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Remember to add a tire cliche' so that I can understand you.

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:19 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:
Remember to add a tire cliche' so that I can understand you.

ZM


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:27 pm 
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jaybee24 wrote:
You're absolutely right that BABIP requires context. To provide some, I took a look at the ground ball to fly ball ratios that the Pirates had from last year and this year.

2008 ground ball to fly ball ratio: 0.80
2009 ground ball to fly ball ratio: 0.68

2008 ratio of ground ball outs to fly ball outs: 1.17
2009 ratio of ground ball outs to fly ball outs: 0.86

The Pirates are having more success this year despite giving up more fly balls than ground balls compared to last year.

It is not a good sign if it continues, but as any stat guy will tell you, the performance almost alway skews towards the norm.

Therefore, we can expect more ground balls from Pirates pitchers in the succeeding weeks. That is a good thing.

The effect of throwing strike one and pounding the inside corner, as well as DP propensity, are not part of BABIP. That is fine, the statistic is a reference point. It is part of an analysis.

My point is that it is not the end of the discussion, and you certainly seem to agree by trying to add additional stats to put the BABIP in context. I appreciate that. And I get luck plays a role on contact - witness Garrett Anderson's bloop double and Franceour's broken bat single against Duke as evidence of that.

But if Duke gets a ground ball from Anderson, the Braves probably score 0 in the first inning. If he veers towards his historical norm and gets more ground balls, and the Pirates defense continues its stellar work, then his productivity is sustainable.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:40 pm 
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To add:

Many of the fly balls I've seen at the Park seem to fit jaybee's description of worry. I've noted a number of fly outs now that will go a "wee bit" further come the warm season. More than a couple have landed on a cold warning track.

As to the line drives? Meh. How does one describe a "line drive" from stat geek to stat geek, to ballpark to ballpark. Very ambigous and much like global warming models, junk in, junk out.


ZM

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:44 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:
To add:

Many of the fly balls I've seen at the Park seem to fit jaybee's description of worry. I've noted a number of fly outs now that will go a "wee bit" further come the warm season. ZM

No doubt. Hanley Ramirez might have had 3 HR's against Karstens if the game is in July.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:21 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
I guess this is a reason why I have a hard time reconciling the idea that a strikeout is just as acceptable as an out resulting from putting a ball in play. If, on average, a batter has a 30% chance of reaching safely when a ball is put in play . . . isn't that a 30% better chance than when he spins around in the batter's box and walks back to the dugout? Not to mention that, when a ball is put in play, runners can advance, errors can be made, etc. There is really nothing good that can result from a strike out (assuming that the catcher catches the ball) and it appears to me that there are a significant number of outcomes that can be considered positive when a ball is put in play - whether or not an out is recorded.

You're getting off topic. When someone says "an out is an out is an out," it means that the end result of a ground out or a fly out is not much different than the end result of a strikeout. This is usually brought up when someone decides to bring up the tired and valueless discussion over the merits of productive outs. However, this discussion has never been about productive outs; it has been about the likelihood of an out occurring when a pitcher allows the batter to put the ball in play versus when the pitcher causes the batter to strike out. A ground out is not much different from a strikeout, but a hit is not an out.

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:28 pm 
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Bucfan wrote:
jaybee24 wrote:
You're absolutely right that BABIP requires context. To provide some, I took a look at the ground ball to fly ball ratios that the Pirates had from last year and this year.

2008 ground ball to fly ball ratio: 0.80
2009 ground ball to fly ball ratio: 0.68

2008 ratio of ground ball outs to fly ball outs: 1.17
2009 ratio of ground ball outs to fly ball outs: 0.86

The Pirates are having more success this year despite giving up more fly balls than ground balls compared to last year.

It is not a good sign if it continues, but as any stat guy will tell you, the performance almost alway skews towards the norm.

Therefore, we can expect more ground balls from Pirates pitchers in the succeeding weeks. That is a good thing.

The effect of throwing strike one and pounding the inside corner, as well as DP propensity, are not part of BABIP. That is fine, the statistic is a reference point. It is part of an analysis.

My point is that it is not the end of the discussion, and you certainly seem to agree by trying to add additional stats to put the BABIP in context. I appreciate that. And I get luck plays a role on contact - witness Garrett Anderson's bloop double and Franceour's broken bat single against Duke as evidence of that.

But if Duke gets a ground ball from Anderson, the Braves probably score 0 in the first inning. If he veers towards his historical norm and gets more ground balls, and the Pirates defense continues its stellar work, then his productivity is sustainable.


Very fair point. Duke and Maholm are both way, way below their career ground ball to fly ball ratios so far this season, so we can probably expect those to return to normal unless Joe Kerrigan has done something weird to them. That's a great sign. Snell is about the same. Ohlendorf and Karstens haven't had as many batters faced, so their sample sizes are small.

It's worth pointing out that Karstens seems to be a fly ball pitcher by the looks of his ground to fly ratio this far into his career. Usually guys with no stuff who pitch to contact and give up lots of fly balls do not have the majors in their future. Every quality start we get from the guy is a bonus, but I'm still really wary of him.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:50 pm 
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Question: Do you guys ever tire of this statistical BS. I know you prove this and that and sometimes it's fun to read but.....

Sometimes it sounds like nerd city. Does it bore you after a while. It does me. You guys are wonderful and very informative to an average fan type guy, but after a few beers like tonight, I can't follow or enjoy this stuff any more. Goodnight.

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