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Carlos Torres is not a long reliever
*August 29, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Sports.*

Tags: Carlos Torres, ERA

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Tags: Carlos Torres, ERA

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**Carlos Torres** has been a fixture in the Mets bullpen this year, tossing 52 1/3 innings thus far in relief. The Closer Monkey had him listed as our reliable setup man for a bit, but that spot has been taken over by *the World’s Worst Sports Blog*‘s current favorite bullpen man, **Hansel Robles**.

Torres cost the Mets last night’s game against the Red Sox, with a little bit of help from **Blake Swihart**. Torres has seemed unpredictable this year, sometimes seeming strong and other times unreliable. For that reason, I wanted to take a look at whether that’s recency bias or something else.

To do so, I generated a time series of Torres’ ERA for the season, which (predictably) spends most of its time decreasing, hovering around 4.0, and then periodically spikes upward to start another decrease. There are very few times when Torres’ season ERA increases more than one game at a time. In fact, he put up 39 scoreless appearances making up 39 2/3 innings of work this year. When he gives up runs, though, he gives up big ones.

The rolling-five-game ERA is meant to demonstrate that Torres’ performance is much spottier than we would expect – in many cases, his ERA5 spends several games at 0 before spiking up and staying high for several games. That indicates that Torres follows up runs with shorter appearances, more runs, or a combination of both, showing that he definitely has a streaky side.

In addition, the correlation between Torres’ runs allowed and his number of pitches is quite clear – it’s about .42. That indicates that Torres tires quickly. This is borne out by a back-of-the-envelope regression; estimating Carlos’ runs allowed as a function of his pitches that night and his days of rest, I found that each pitch thrown adds about .04 runs to Carlos’ total (significant above the 95% level). Days of rest doesn’t give a statistically significant estimate, nor do the quadratics of either term. (This looks pretty linear to me.) No combination of pitches thrown in the previous 3 games and batters faced in previous games give any additional information. This isn’t a great method – there’s obviously some endogeneity – but there is a strong correlation between Torres staying in the game longer and giving up more runs.

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From the File Drawer – 6-run games are an indicator
*August 29, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Sports.*

Tags: file drawer

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Tags: file drawer

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At one point during the Mets’ tough loss to Boston last night, I shouted, “IT GETS THROUGH d’ARNAUD! IT GETS THROUGH d’ARNAUD!” The game started off pretty well, with **Matt Harvey** going six scoreless (including the aforementioned wild pitch to **Travis d’Arnaud**), but **Logan Verrett** had a rough seventh inning. Despite **Tyler Clippard** and **Jeurys Familia** doing what they do so well, **Carlos Torres** continued his slide. (He’ll be the topic of another post soon.)

One thing that surprised me was the number of runs the Mets allowed – six! The Mets have allowed 6 or more runs in 33 games, and six of them have been in August. In those six games, though, the Mets are 4-2. Does that sort of game really come out in the wash? I decided to crunch some numbers using the Baseball Reference Play Index and find out, with the hypothesis that the number of high-scoring games for opponents doesn’t really have an effect on the team’s overall record.

The chart attached to this post uses the number of games in which 6 or more runs are allowed on the x-axis and percentage on the y-axis. The blue datapoints are individual teams’ win-loss percentage in those 6-run games; the trend is pretty clear, although the outlier is the Toronto Blue Jays (who have played 48 such games and have a .417 winning percentage). The orange datapoints are season win-loss percentages, again as a function of 6-plus-run games. This trend is pretty clear, too: if you allow your opponents to score lots of runs, there’s a definite negative effect on your record, even though over a small sample size it might disappear. (Another perfectly good hypothesis busted by data!)

For the record, the correlation between 6-runs-allowed games and win percentage in those games is -.457, meaning that there’s a noticeable negative effect on performance in those games; however, the correlation between the number of those games and season win percentage is even stronger, at -.805. One way to interpret those numbers is to say that a team can recover in an individual high-scoring game, but a team that consistently allows such high scores will eventually see the losses add up.

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Exactly how big an impact have those trades had?
*August 26, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.*

Tags: bullpen, Pythagorean luck, trades, wins above expectation

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Tags: bullpen, Pythagorean luck, trades, wins above expectation

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The Mets made some huge deals near the trade deadline to pick up **Juan Uribe** and **Kelly Johnson** on July 25, **Tyler Clippard** on July 28, and **Yoenis Cespedes** on August 1. (Those are the dates of the first games the players appeared in for the Mets.) Let’s take a look at the effects of those trades. If there was no effect from the trades, then the Mets’ improvement would have to be basically indistinguishable from chance.

**April:**The Mets scored 97 runs and and allowed 81 for a 16-run differential and a .581 Pythagorean expectation. They went 15-8 for a win percentage of .652, giving them a Pythagorean differential of .071 and 1.63 Wins Above Expectation.^{1}**May:**95 runs scored, 105 allowed, 11-14, for an expected .455 winning percentage, .440 actual winning percentage, -.015 differential and -.36 WAE.**June:**84 runs scored, 105 allowed, 9-15, for an expected .413, actual .375, -.038 differential and -.90 WAE.**July:**89 runs scored, 83 allowed, 11-12, for an expected .532, realized .478, -.053 differential and -1.23 WAE.**August:**137 runs scored, 84 allowed, 16-5, for an expected .709, actual .762, .053 differential and 1.11 WAE.

Clearly, the jump in August has been enormous, especially since they only played 21 games in August; in fact, the Mets averaged 3.76 runs per game through July, but 8.2 in August. In fact, if we start on July 25, the Mets have averaged 9.26 runs per game. Between Uribe, Johnson, and Cespedes, that’s a huge improvement – five and a half runs per game!

What about Clippard? Well, for one, the Mets averaged 3.9 runs allowed through July; since August 1, we’re at 4.0. However, Clippy’s ERA with the Mets is 1.93, and the bullpen ERA overall is 3.08. The August ERA for the bullpen has been an alarming 3.59, but that includes the hilarious trip to Colorado, too. That makes Tyler’s low ERA even more impressive. (For the record, future Mets closer **Hansel Robles** has a 3.27 August ERA – that’s 4 ER in 11.0 IP – and current closer **Jeurys Familia** hasn’t allowed a run in 11 1/3 innings pitched in August.) Clippy’s definitely value-added in the bullpen, especially considering that the alternative might be **Dario Alvarez** or **Dillon Gee** unhappy in his role.

Most notably, though, since the Mets picked up Uribe and Johnson, their wins above expectation have been statistically zero. They’ve been playing to their potential, not above it, since July 25.

We’re in for an interesting end to the year.

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^{1} Pythagorean differential is computed as (Winning percentage – Pythagorean Expectation). Wins Above Expectation is computed as Pythagorean differential times games played. They measure the same concept but are scaled differently.

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Position Players on the Bump: 2015 So Far
*August 26, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.*

Tags: AL vs NL, position players pitching

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Tags: AL vs NL, position players pitching

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Last night, **Brendan Ryan** of the Yankees took the mound for two full innings to spare the bullpen after **Ivan Nova**, **Nick Rumbelow**, and **Chris Capuano** gamely allowed the Astros to score 15 runs in 7 innings. He allowed 2 hits and no runs in his two innings pitched. Brendan is the nineteenth position player to pitch this year; since individual mound appearances often go as cleanly as Ryan’s, I’m curious how the average appearance by a position player goes. Is it confirmation bias that leads us to remember the scoreless innings by position players?

Just for the record, Ryan’s 2 innings matched **Jeff Francoeur’s** 2-inning appearance for the longest appearance by a position player. **Ike Davis**, **Jesus Sucre**, **Adam Rosales**, and **David Ross** have each pitched two innings, but spread them over two appearances.

In total, position players this year have stacked up an earned run average of 4.15, which doesn’t seem too bad until you factor in the league split. The average pitcher this season for the NL has a 3.86 ERA, but the average NL position player pitcher has a much better 1.59. On the other hand, the AL has a slightly higher 3.96 on average, but position players there have a 9.00 ERA. Again, with WHIP, the average position player is pretty good – 1.52 – compared to an NL average of 1.29 and an AL average of 1.28. Again, though, there’s a big split – AL position players have a 1.75 WHIP, compared to a .088 WHIP for NL position players.

Keep in mind, though, that NL position players have pitched 5 2/3 innings, compared to 16 for AL position players. It’s likely that over a larger sample size, the National League players would similarly falter.

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The state of the bullpen is wrong
*August 20, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.*

Tags: Closer Monkey, Mets, Mets bullpen

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Tags: Closer Monkey, Mets, Mets bullpen

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Over at CloserMonkey, the current Mets closer hierarchy has **Jeurys Familia** as the closer, **Tyler Clippard** in the second slot, and …. **Carlos Torres** third in line? Fascinating.

Torres was upgraded above **Bobby Parnell** on August 16, at which point Torres promptly allowed 3 runs, 2 earned. Over Torres’ last 15 appearances, stemming back to June 27, Torres has 17.1 IP and a 3.12 ERA – solid for a reliever, but not closer stuff.

Meanwhile, my current favorite pitcher, **Hansel Robles**, has pitched a similar 17.1 since June 28 (in his last 15 appearances), but with an ERA of 2.60. However, Robles has two issues:

- Torres has allowed an alarming 50% of his 10 inherited runners to score. Robles has allowed an inexcusable 100% of his 6 inherited runners to score.
- Torres is battling a .348 BAbip against; Robles has gotten lucky with a .206 BAbip.

Robles is 25 this year. He’s going to be a fantastic reliever, and I’m looking forward to seeing his development.

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What does Clippard add?
*July 28, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.*

Tags: trades, Tyler Clippard

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Tags: trades, Tyler Clippard

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The Mets acquired setup man/closer **Tyler Clippard** from Oakland for starting pitcher **Casey Meisner**. Oakland is going to eat $1 million of Clippard’s $8.3 million deal, making Clippard the Mets’ highest-paid reliever; **Bartolo Colon** is the only pitcher who earns more.

Though Ty is arbitration-eligible this year, his yearly salary is about double **Bobby Parnell**‘s $3.7 million deal; for the record, **Heath Bell** was earning $9 million yearly in his last contract. Clippard’s contract is big, but not out of the question – his 2014 stats included a .995 WHIP and a 3.57 KBB ratio. Closing for Oakland, Tyler has a 1.19 WHIP and a 1.81 KBB. Somewhat alarming is his drop in BAbip this year – it was .255 in Washington, and only .217 this year in Oakland. That means that some of those hits are due to defense, but his walk percentage also ballooned from 8.3% to 12.6%. Of course, some of that is due to the fact that Clippard is facing American League batters, including specialized designated hitters.

What the Mets know they’ll get out of Clippard is a solid reliever who can shore up what’s been a fairly lights-out bullpen, but help bridge the gap from the early innings. Yeah, yeah, Familia has blown some saves recently, but over the course of the season the Mets have 10 blown saves, which is below the National League median of 12. The Mets are also near the bottom of the league in losses by relievers – they have 9 losses in relief this year, behind only Milwaukee with 8. This will allow the Mets to go to a strong, reliable arm early, both relieving (ha!) some of the pressure on starting pitchers like **Jon Niese** (who’s been left in while struggling because, hey, what’s the alternative?) and preventing the Mets from needing to rely on **Carlos Torres** and **Alex Torres**. Though this leads to a higher number of pitchers per game, having a reliable endgame pipeline with **Jenrry Mejia**, Clippard, Bobby Parnell and **Jeurys Familia** makes it easier to go lights out. It will also allow the Mets to develop **Hansel Robles** by judiciously building him into high-pressure situations while maintaining some options behind him.

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Don’t Knock Curtis, Even if He Isn’t Knocking It Out of the Park
*July 8, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.*

Tags: Curtis Granderson, Mets

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Tags: Curtis Granderson, Mets

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**Curtis Granderson** has, for some reason, developed a reputation as a streaky hitter. For example, Adam Rubin opened this article from June 27 commenting on it, although the thrust of the article was Granderson’s defensive issues. Amazin’ Avenue was justifiably a bit more nuanced, describing Curtis’s change of approach at the plate as a favorable influence on Mets scoring. What’s surprising to me is that Granderson’s hitting has been described as a ‘streak.’

Granderson’s hitting was unpredictable at the beginning of the season, certainly, but those sorts of fluctuations are natural with a small sample size. What’s visible from the time-series chart of Granderson’s first 85 games should be two things: his batting average has improved, and his hitting has been consistent if not trending upward.

Some rudimentary data analysis bears that out. A time-series regression of batting average on game number shows an intercept of .148 and an increase of .0016 per game, both significant at the 99% level (showing a bad start and a slow but steady increase). However, Granderson’s hitting is coming at the expense of his OBP, which showed a 99%-significant .360 intercept and a 95%-significant decrease of .0002 each game. The fluctuation of OBP, which is almost certainly due to his high proportion of walks at the beginning of the season, is about an eighth of the increase in batting average; Curtis’ consistent production can be counted on, whether the rest of the team contributes or not.

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The Mets have the worst, but who has the best?
*July 7, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.*

Tags: David Murphy, pinch hitter, pinch hitting, Ryan Raburn, Spectrum Club

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Tags: David Murphy, pinch hitter, pinch hitting, Ryan Raburn, Spectrum Club

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Earlier, I posted about the Mets’ anemic pinch-hitting performance this year, led by **John Mayberry**, Jr., whose .080 mark is the worst in the league among hitters with at least 20 plate appearances as a pinch hitter. Even more shocking is that Mayberry is seventh in the league in plate appearances as a PH. The Mets may have the worst pinch hitters in the league, but Cleveland may have the best.

Cleveland’s **David Murphy**, who has a .333 batting average in 26 pinch-hit appearances, and **Ryan Raburn**, who is tied for highest OBP as a pinch hitter with .455 in 22 plate appearances, both lag behind Mayberry in appearances. (Arizona’s **Cliff Pennington** also has a .455 OBP in 22 plate appearances, and Washington’s **Dan Uggla** deserves an honorable mention for a .429 mark in 21 times at the plate.)

Murphy’s monstrous batting average as a pinch hitter matches some general trends shown in his split page. Against a starter, Murphy hits a disgusting .357 the first time and an obscene .432 his second time up. His OBP during that second-appearance sweet spot is an unconscionable .476.

Meanwhile, Raburn demonstrates the opposite trend, hitting uniformly better against starters his first time up: .333/.419/.593 the first time, versus .286/.333/.586 the second time. This, at least in theory, means that Raburn can hammer a pitcher the first time up and Murphy can maintain the pressure.

Oh, and both Murphy and Raburn pitched on June 17th, making them part of an already unusually large Spectrum Club for 2015.

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In A Pinch
*July 7, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.*

Tags: Mets, pinch hitting, Pitchers batting, weird lines

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Tags: Mets, pinch hitting, Pitchers batting, weird lines

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Much has been made of the Mets’ inability to hit, often with the tongue-in-cheek point made that Mets pitchers are hitting better than Mets pinch hitters. In fact, that’s true: Mets pitchers have made 178 plate appearances, owning a collective .165/.174/.213 slash line with a .255 BABIP, while pinch hitters get on base slightly more often but otherwise do worse. The pinch hitters have 118 plate appearances thus far, hitting .147/.248/.186 with a ,242 BABIP.

Of course, a big portion of the Mets pitchers’ abysmal slugging average is **Steven Matz**‘ .500/.500/.667 in 6 plate appearances. Even so, the pitchers are still hitting fairly well – even without Matz, the pitchers have a higher batting average than the pinch hitters.

**John Mayberry**, Jr., has taken the most plate appearances as a pinch hitter for the Mets. In his 30 PA, he’s hit – though I’m not sure ‘hit’ is correct – .080/.233/.080, although with a terribly unlucky .118 BABIP. **Darrell Ceciliani**, who was recently sent back down, had 20 plate appearances at .176/.263/.235, inflated by a .375 BABIP. The recently recalled **Kirk Nieuwenhuis** is 0-14 with a walk (.071 OBP) pinch hitting. Together, those 64 plate appearances make up about half of the Mets’ pinch hitting appearances.

For comparison, MLB pitchers are hitting .132/.156/.163 this year collectively, while MLB pinch hitters have a collective.211/.283/.316 line. That means the Mets pitchers are decidedly above average hitters, but the thin bench is hurting their run production when it comes time to lift a pitcher for a bat.

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Logan Verrett’s Three-Inning Save
*July 6, 2015*

*Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.*

Tags: Logan Verrett, Mets, Three-inning saves

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Tags: Logan Verrett, Mets, Three-inning saves

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During yesterday’s game, Mets reliever **Logan Verrett** came in to start the seventh inning during a 7-0 game. During the eighth, the Mets would add another run. Two interesting things happened.

First, Verrett made his first plate appearance in the majors. He’s a career .098/.132/.098 hitter in 56 plate appearances in the minors, so his groundout to second wasn’t a big surprise.

Second, he earned a three-inning save. Those aren’t common – in fact, the last Met to do so was **Raul Valdes** in 2010. Valdes actually hit a double in that game. Three-inning saves are a fairly rare beast; the most in the 2000s was 35 in 2001, and in 2014 there were only 9. There have already been 10 in 2015, though, perhaps in keeping with the trend toward using strong minor league starters as bullpen arms.

**Matt Andriese** of Tampa Bay leads the majors in three-inning saves this year (with two); Verrett is now tied for second (along with seven other pitchers).