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What can the Mets do with Lucas Duda? January 22, 2014

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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As MetsBlog reported the other day, Lucas Duda is likely to be an outfielder this year. (In fact, he’s listed there on the current Mets roster.) For a number of good reasons, this probably isn’t a great idea. MetsMerized pointed out that this is probably a flailing attempt to find a good home for Duda, so let’s consider a few options.

They appear to be considering leaving him in the outfield, but this isn’t a great idea. Curtis Granderson is probably going to play every day, with Eric Young, Juan Lagares, and Chris Young rounding out the outfield. Lagares and Chris Young each hit righty, but Eric Young is a switch hitter and Granderson is a lefty, so Duda’s left-handed bat doesn’t offer a huge upgrade. Duda’s OPS is much better versus right-handers than Lagares’ (.831 vs .620), so that might present a decent platoon split, but starting Duda against right-handers would put Duda’s significantly worse defense in the field. Duda isn’t comfortable in the outfield, and his numbers bear this out – Duda’s 2013 defensive WAR is -2.1, including his time at first base (his natural position), whereas Lagares’ is 3.5. Duda’s further time on-base is useful, but his defense is too rough to count on. Eric Young hovers around the 0 dWAR mark and has a .647 OPS mark, still representing a defensive upgrade.

The Mets will probably start Ike Davis, keeping Duda from his natural position. Though Davis has struggled offensively, he’s been defensively quite good.

Probably the best thing the Mets could do with Duda is to try to shop him around. Don’t get me wrong, I like Duda, but he’s best shipped off to a team that can use him as a platoon first baseman or DH. We don’t even need to get much for him in return – picking up a few young, cheap bullpen arms might be a viable option. I’m not an expert on the trade market this year, but someone can make more use of Duda than we can, even if arbitration finds him worth $1.9 million.

Zambrano Back on the Horse May 27, 2011

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Last night, Carlos Zambrano pitched on one day’s rest after pinch-hitting against the hapless Mets for two RBIs on Tuesday. We’ve talked about Zambrano’s pinch-hitting prowess before, but last night he was an awesome 3 for 3 from the plate, including a double. In fact, in 26 plate appearances, Zambrano’s got 9 hits for a .375 batting average and, since he has no walks, a .375 on-base percentage. Not only is that impressive, but I hear he can pitch, too.

I figured that was pretty impressive. It can’t be often that a pitcher gets three at-bats and hits for all of them, can it? It’s happened 450 times since 1919, including, surprisingly, once already this year. The Mets’ Chris Young managed a 3-for-3 night while notching the win against the Phillies back on April 5.

In recent memory, the most at-bats by a pitcher who hit each time was Dan Haren, who grabbed a 4-for-4 as a Diamondback against the Cardinals last year (also as the winning pitcher). Haren also gave up a whopping 7 runs, so he’s lucky he was hitting.

Micah Owings has had two games where he pitched and hit in all of at least 3 plate appearances, including a 4-for-4 from 2007 in which three of his 4 hits were doubles.

Finally, Mel Stottlemyre (in 1964) and two pitchers from the 1920s had 5-for-5 games. Stottlemyre’s two-hit gem included him hitting a double and pitching to a game score of 83.

Home Run Derby: Does it ruin swings? December 15, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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Earlier this year, there was a lot of discussion about the alleged home run derby curse. This post by Andy on Baseball-Reference.com asked if the Home Run Derby is bad for baseball, and this Hardball Times piece agrees with him that it is not. The standard explanation involves selection bias – sure, players tend to hit fewer home runs in the second half after they hit in the Derby, but that’s because the people who hit in the Derby get invited to do so because they had an abnormally high number of home runs in the first half.

Though this deserves a much more thorough macro-level treatment, let’s just take a look at the density of home runs in either half of the season for each player who participated in the Home Run Derby. Those players include David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Chris Young, Nick Swisher, Corey Hart, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Holliday, and Vernon Wells.

For each player, plus Robinson Cano (who was of interest to Andy in the Baseball-Reference.com post), I took the percentage of games before the Derby and compared it with the percentage of home runs before the Derby. If the Ruined Swing theory holds, then we’d expect

g(HR) \equiv HR_{before}/HR_{Season} > g(Games) \equiv Games_{before}/162

The table below shows that in almost every case, including Cano (who did not participate), the density of home runs in the pre-Derby games was much higher than the post-Derby games.

Player HR Before HR Total g(Games) g(HR) Diff
Ortiz 18 32 0.54321 0.5625 0.01929
Hanley 13 21 0.54321 0.619048 0.075838
Swisher 15 29 0.537037 0.517241 -0.0198
Wells 19 31 0.549383 0.612903 0.063521
Holliday 16 28 0.54321 0.571429 0.028219
Hart 21 31 0.549383 0.677419 0.128037
Cabrera 22 38 0.530864 0.578947 0.048083
Young 15 27 0.549383 0.555556 0.006173
Cano 16 29 0.537037 0.551724 0.014687

Is this evidence that the Derby causes home run percentages to drop off? Certainly not. There are some caveats:

  • This should be normalized based on games the player played, instead of team games.
  • It would probably even be better to look at a home run per plate appearance rate instead.
  • It could stand to be corrected for deviation from the mean to explain selection bias.
  • Cano’s numbers are almost identical to Swisher’s. They play for the same team. If there was an effect to be seen, it would probably show up here, and it doesn’t.

Once finals are up, I’ll dig into this a little more deeply.