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What does Clippard add? July 28, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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"Tyler Clippard 2011" by Keith Allison on Flickr

“Tyler Clippard 2011″ by Keith Allison on Flickr

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.

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

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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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.’

2015-07-08 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.

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

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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.

In A Pinch July 7, 2015

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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.

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

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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.

slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop)

slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop)

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).

Why isn’t Robles the left-handed specialist? July 5, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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"Alex Torres on April 23, 2015" by slgckgc on Flickr (Original version)UCinternational - Originally posted to Flickr as "Alex Torres"Cropped by UCinternational. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alex_Torres_on_April_23,_2015.jpg#/media/File:Alex_Torres_on_April_23,_2015.jpg

“Alex Torres on April 23, 2015″ by slgckgc on Flickr, Cropped by UCinternational.

In yesterday’s post, I made reference to Terry Collins‘ maddening habit of treating Alex Torres as a left-handed specialist against all better evidence. In 17 of Torres’ 33 appearances, he’s faced three batters or fewer; those numbers are similar to bridge man Hansel Robles‘ 26 appearances, in which 15 appearances have faced three batters or fewer (each has faced a maximum of eight batters). Robles’ median appearance is a full inning pitched, whereas Torres’ median was 2/3 of an inning. 19 of Torres’ appearances have come in a clean inning, whereas Robles has come in 16 times to start an inning and twice more with one batter on but 0 outs. Overall, the two pitchers are being used in very similar ways, except for one major factor: Almost 48% of the batters Alex Torres has faced are left-handed, as opposed to a hair over 38% for Hansel Robles.

Against righties, Torres has a .297 OBP-against, compared to Robles’ .328, neither being much to write home about. (Closer Jeurys Familia allows a .225 OBP against right-handers and .254 against left-handers, and reliable eighth-inning dude Bobby Parnell carries .294 against righties and .222 against lefties, in a very limited sample this year.) But against lefties, Robles strictly dominates Torres. Robles has a .222 OBP allowed against right-handers, which is as good as Parnell and a smidge better than our closer. But Torres, who’s faced 59 lefties, more than anyone except Familia? Torres allows a monstrous .407 OBP when facing left-handers!

.407.

Four oh seven.

That’s the worst platoon split of any active Mets pitcher. Not only is Alex Torres not even better facing lefties than righties, he’s so bad that Alex Torres Against Left-Handers should be sent down to keep Alex Torres Against Right-Handers on the roster! If Left-Handers Against Alex Torres were a single player, they would rank #3 in OBP in the National League, ahead of Anthony Rizzo with .405.

Both Parnell and Robles are better against lefties than righties, but Parnell should be comfortable in his eighth-inning role. Why not bust out Robles against lefty-heavy lineups and see if he can keep up his difference? But for heaven’s sake, quit using Alex Torres against left-handers.

One pitcher and two guys on the disabled list July 4, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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This season, the Mets have been fighting against a pernicious series of injuries, mainly focused on the offense. Although we lost Jenrry Mejia, Zack Wheeler, and Jerry Blevins, we’ve also lost David Wright for much of the season and missed Daniel Murphy, Michael Cuddyer, and Juan Lagares for smaller pieces. Let’s take a look at some interesting statistics:

Steven Matz leads the team in OBP (1.000) and total bases per game (4). Second to Matz in OBP is David Wright (.371); Travis d’Arnaud is second in total bases per game (2) and fifth in OBP (.338). Wright follows up with 1.75 total bases per game. In order to get to active position players, we have to go 3 deep to Lucas Duda (OBP of .358 and 1.56 TB/G) and Curtis Granderson (OBP of .348, 1.54 TB/G). In other words, of the Mets’ top 5 hitters, one is a pitcher who’s played one game, and two have spent more time on the disabled list than on the field. Argue with the choice of metric, but our best active hitter can’t touch Andrew McCutchen‘s 10th-best OBP (.370) or the total bases mark (Duda has 122, Granderson 125, and the bottom of the top 10 is a three way tie with 162 total bases involving Prince Fielder, J.D. Martinez, and Manny Machado).

Of course, it could be worse: we could have Ike Davis (.322 OBP, 1.3 TB/G). (But I still like Ike.)

So here’s the problem: When the Mets started off the season, they were hitting incredibly – during the first 25 games, they averaged 4.04 runs per game and allowed only 3.28. The league average this season is 4.01 runs scored to 4.11 allowed, so that was a pretty nice set of stats. But during games 26-50, those stats slid to 3.84 runs scored and 4.04 runs allowed, and in games 51-75, the Mets averaged only 3.16 runs scored to still 4.04 runs allowed. Our pitching, despite being at times inconsistent, is still better than the league, by average.

Although the Mets have made some interesting moves in the bullpen, and Terry Collins‘ insistence on using Alex Torres as a left-handed specialist is maddening at times, the pitching side of the equation is okay. All the team needs is a break on the offensive side – Duda could break out. Cuddyer could stay healthy. Murphy can keep up his hitting and Wilmer Flores can continue developing. This season has been a comedy of errors offensively, but SOMETHING has to go right soon.

Lucas Duda’s .422 OBP and Anthony Recker’s Weird Slash Line April 28, 2015

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Mets first baseman Lucas Duda has an alarming .422 OBP and .507 SLG this year, including 2 HBP and a 15/11 KBB ratio. That’s quite a bit above Lucas’ previous year OBPs – since 2011, Lucas had gotten on base .370, .329, .352, and .349 times per plate appearance, in order. That’s centered almost exactly around .350.

In 20 games, Lucas has made 83 plate appearances. What are the chances that Lucas is hitting about where he did previously, but had a hot streak of facing pitchers who gave him what he needed?

The standard error for an n-trial sample of a binary variable with probability p is \sqrt{\frac{p(1-p)}{n}} . If we assume Lucas’ ‘true’ OBP is .350, then the standard error of this 83-trial sample would be \sqrt{\frac{.35(.65)}{83}} = \sqrt{\frac{.2275}{83}} = \sqrt{.00274} = .052. That means about 66% of Lucas’s 83-plate-appearance streaks should be within one standard error, and about 95% should be within two. Due to the small sample size, it’s hard to be 95% sure that Lucas’ performance is due to actual improvement, but the upper bound of the 66% confidence window would be about .402. Lucas is outperforming that by about 20 basis points.

Meanwhile, backup catcher, relief pitcher, and third baseman Anthony Recker is on the other side – he’s made 11 plate appearances, walking four times, striking out 4, and not yet hitting the ball. Though none of those walks are intentional, that leaves Recker with a .000/.364/.000 line – quite far off from his lifetime .194/.268/.364 BA/OBP/SLG line. No wonder Kevin Plawecki is starting. Recker’s hitting probably isn’t that much different from last year’s .200 average – we can be 95% sure he’s not likely to hit much above .300 without some extra batting practice, but otherwise it’s not unusual for a .200 hitter to have a streak of 7 at-bats with no hits, especially since he’s working walks, too.

Jerry Blevins has some weird stats. April 27, 2015

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Poor Jerry Blevins.

He’s having a really rough season. I mean, there’s the obvious, in that he’s suffering from a fractured forearm that’s keeping him out of the best season he’d had yet. Blevins has pitched 5.0 innings – 15 batters up and 15 batters down (although they weren’t perfect – see below). Despite a meager career .042 platoon split, including a .025 BAbip platoon split, the Mets were using Blevins as a left-handed specialist (one right-handed batter faced in 2015), and he was rising to the occasion. Then, his pitching arm was broken by a comebacker.

Blevins’ record is currently 1-0, and that one win was pretty filthy. It came on April 14, when Blevins came in to face Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich with one out and Ichiro Suzuki on third base. The Marlins trailed 5-4 in the top of the 7th, so this was technically a save opportunity for Blevins. Blevins pitched to Gordon, who grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Ichiro came around and scored on an error by second baseman Daniel Murphy. That unearned run was charged to Rafael Montero. Blevins then pitched to Yelich, who obligingly grounded into a double play and ended the top of the inning.

For those keeping score at home, Blevins pitched to two batters and recorded two outs; one inherited runner scored an unearned run due to an error in the field. As a result, Blevins receives a blown save. Fortunately, the Mets scored two runs in the bottom of the 7th, and the tag team of Carlos Torres and Jeurys Familia tied up the win for Blevins. As a result, Blevins has the shame of his only win being a Vulture Win, and it even came out of an inning with no hits and no walks.

At least Blevins got the win – as it happens, Burke Badenhop managed to blow a save on no runs, no hits, and no walks in 2014. Twice.

I Still Like Ike April 27, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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No, not because of his .345 batting average or .405 OBP, but because of his 0.00 ERA.

The whole time Ike Davis was a Met, I would shout at the TV every time Terry Collins put in a tired reliever in a laugher that Ike needed to pitch. Ike was, after all, a starter in his freshman year at Arizona State, cobbling together 47.2 innings in 12 starts and 2 relief appearances for a 7.42 ERA. He got better, though – he spent most of his sophomore year in the outfield but still managed to make one start and six relief appearances, totalling 6.2 innings and a 1.34 ERA. In his junior year, Ike pitched in 16 games and 24 innings, going 4-1 with 4 saves and a 2.25 ERA. Ike was not a bad hurler. Buster Posey, of course, showed him up – while playing 68 games at catcher in 2007-08, Buster also made 9 relief appearances and collected 6 saves with a 1.17 ERA.

It was only natural that the A’s turned to Ike to pitch the ninth inning of a 14-1 blowout on April 21, but Ike pitched a perfect inning on 9 pitches. No runs, no hits, no errors, no walks. (No strikeouts, either….) It’s a shame I waited through all those games and Ike finally pitched on the other side of the country.

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