Monday, 6 May 2013

J.P. Arencibia And The Hidden Improved Approach


                In the dreary start to the Blue Jays 2013 season, one of the few bright spots has been the ridiculous and completely unsustainable power surge by Jonathan Paul Arencibia. Along with the power comes the strike outs and lack of walks, as expected, but yet Arencibia’s approach has been better this season.
                At this point you must be thinking I’m absolutely fucking nuts, and that might be fair. Arencibia has a 35.9% strikeout rate and a 1.7% walk rate, both worse than his already poor career numbers. It is early in the season and even as quickly as strikeout and walk rates normalize, there is reason to believe that J.P. has made some strides at the dish.
                Arencibia will always strike out at a high rate due to a long swing that does have some exploitable holes, but if he can avoid digging himself into holes by swinging at bad pitches there is a chance that he can lessen the his strikeout issues and perhaps hit for a higher average. To show some of the improvements I’ve seen in his approach I’m going to link to the tables below.



This strikezone map shows JP’s swing rate over his career. The first thing I want to focus on is the number of pitches down and away that he swings at.

Career Swing Percentages For J.P. Arencibia

Between 2011 and 2012 In that quartet of zones, JP swung at 473 of 946 pitches, exactly 50%. So far in 2013, JP has swung at only 48 of 129 pitches down and away, or 37.2%. It is a small sample size, but that is a fairly sizeable adjustment. When it comes to just breaking pitches, he is swinging at 39.5% of the time, compared to 44.2% in 2011 and 2012.

J.P. Arencibia Swing Percentages In Strike Zone

While all of this is just a small sample, overall his swing rates within the strike zone seem to be with pitches in better locations, but time will tell if this approach change keeps up. The above chart shows his swing rate in the zone for 2013 and for his career. 2013 is on the left, while his career rates are on the right. One of the big reason’s for Edwin Encarnacion’s strides last season was the fact that he was more selective within the strike zone, and it appears so far that Arencibia has been doing something similar so far, though his approach still leaves a lot to be desired.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Platooning Colby Rasmus

Colby Rasmus has been a Blue Jay for nearly a year and a half now and other than him being streaky, one other thing has been realized, he cannot hit Left Handed Pitching.  Rasmus has posted a career wRC+ of 72 vs. LHP including his outlier 2010 season where he posted a 122 mark. His other 3 MLB seasons have been seasons of 25 (2009), 88 (2011) and 52 (2012).  This is not to say he's a RHP masher either though (career 107 wRC+).

Rasmus doesn't do anything particularly well vs. LHP, as it isn't a case where he posts awful slugging numbers but good on base.  His triple slash vs. LHP is .206/.285/.341 despite his walk and strikeout rates not really changing.  His line drive rate drops nearly 4 % from RHP to LHP and ground ball rate shoots up 8%.

What I'm proposing right here and now is a platoon between Rasmus and ... wait for it... Maicer Izturis.  With Rasmus out of the lineup Emilio Bonifacio would slide into CF and Izturis would fill in at second base.  There would be little defensive difference between Bonifacio and Rasmus in CF (both are average defenders) and Izturis may be a slight defensive upgrade at second over Bonifacio.

Maicer Izturis hasn't posted incredible results vs. LHP with only a 90 wRC+ for his career, but does get on base at a solid rate (.333 career OBP).  While Rajai Davis has produced better against LHP for his career (108 wRC+), the loss of defense in CF would be huge and I feel that the loss of defense outweighs the offensive gain. Also, Davis would then be free to pair with Lind as a platoon partner (assuming no other RHB bench bats were brought in).

Given the power of the lineup already at hand, Izturis seems like a great fit at the bottom of the order with solid OBP helping to set the table for the secondary power hitters. Given the current personnel, I could see a batting order vs. LHP look like this.  Personally, I like the Idea of stretching out the order by building the second half of the order as you would the first.  Lawrie hitting behind EE could offer some protection as well.

It could be that platooning Colby isn't something to do right away, after all he is only 26, and has lots of potential. On the other hand though, the Blue Jays could be in the hunt nearing the middle of the season and if Colby continues to struggle vs. LHP, the prospect of potential may have to take a back seat to getting production out of the lineup, and in that case a platoon would be a great idea.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Don't Call It A Fire Sale

After announcing John Gibbons as the new Blue Jays manager, Alex Anthopoulous made an appearance on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt and gave arguably his most candid interview since he became the Blue Jays GM.  The usual character who said much, yet said nothing, was no where to be found.  Anthopoulos talked about the Marlins trade, and bring back John Gibbons.  

Of course the deal with the Marlins was the big topic of the day, and Anthopoulos went into surprising detail about how the trade went down.  It started with Anthopoulos asking about Josh Johnson and feeling the Marlins asking price was too high and it just went from there. Then came Buehrle and Reyes, with AA tossing Bonifacio in with every trade proposal before the Marlins finally relented and offered up Bonifacio. The last sticking point ended up being Jeff Mathis for John Buck, which may not seem like a big deal (especially with the Jays receiving 4.5 million to offset salaries) but Mathis provides so much to a team that doesn't show up in the numbers, but finally Anthopoulos relented and the deal was completed.  I love the fact that Anthopoulos had A) The common sense not to let Mathis hold up trade and B) Considers loyalty when it comes to a situation like this. The Jays do not wish to become the Marlins. This was not a fire-sale by Miami where everyone was on the block. Anthopoulos worked at this and talked them into parting with them, contrary to popular belief according to what Alex was saying.

Anthopoulos gushed about Gibbons and his baseball mind, but the one thing that stood out was the great working relationship they have.  In the present where analytic reports are becoming a larger and larger part of the game, it's an extremely underrated part of dealing with a front office. Gibbons is someone who can understand and act upon what the data says, and thus relieves tension between front office and those on the field.  Alex had always thought about Gibbons for some sort of role with the club, but until he talked with him on Sunday, he didn't realise how much sense Gibbons made for this team at this time.  He also said that hiring Gibbons is the most confident he's been in a transaction he's made.

As someone who believed Gibbons got a raw deal in his first sting as manager when he was fired, this pleased me greatly that Anthopoulos would have the openness to go back to the past.  Alex knows more about what happened in that club house and with J.P. Riccardi then any of us will ever know, and I believe that knowledge had some impact on his ability make this move with Gibbons and feel supremely confident in it.

Lastly, Anthopoulos admits that he's made moves based on optics before rather then his gut and that those are his biggest regrets. The fact that he may be over that, shown by the hiring of Gibbons and signing of Melky Cabrera, shows some definite growth in his ability as a GM.  

Its been a huge week for the Blue Jays and its only November, What does the rest of the off season have in store?

Looking For: Right Handed Platoon bat.


            After a lengthy twitter discussion with bluejaysbatboy and gosensgo101 (follow them), discussing the Jonny Gomes platoon option with Lind (and the subsequent Gomes to Red Sox signing), it felt like a good time to look at platoon options.

            If you follow me on twitter, you likely saw the discussion and know that I am against a DH only type sitting on the bench in the RHB part of the platoon. That means for me, if someone is going to be on the bench, they have to be able to do more then just DH.  Some of my favourite options are Cody Ross, Scott Hairston, Reed Johnson, and Delmon Young (surprisingly).

            All of these players (save Young) can play passable OF defense. And Young is a better defender then Jonny Gomes which says more about Gomes then Young.  Ross has a career 141 wRC+ vs. LHP, Hairston has a career 119 wRC+, Delmon Young has a 125 wRC+ vs. LHP, Reed Johnson has a career 119 wRC+ vs. LHP.

            My order of preference is obviously Ross number one overall, then Reed Johnson due to his ability to play all 3 OF spots. Hairston is 3rd on my list and ahead of Delmon Young because, well he isn't Delmon Young.  Lastly is Delmon Youn who is a last resort to me, but if he does 1 thing well, its hit lefthanders.

            Reed Johnson was part of one of the better platoons in the last while when, SURPRISE, John Gibbons paired him with Frank Catalanotto and the due posted fantastic overall results combining to OPS well over .800 as a duo. Gibbons coming back opens up this option, as he’s used platoons in the past to great success. I honestly couldn't be any more excited at the prospect of maximizing value in this way. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

An Open Letter to J.P. Arencibia


            Hey JP, it’s me, one of those “haters” you like to refer to.  To start things off, I’d just like to get it out there that I don’t hate you.  I actually find many of your tweets quite humourous and I also greatly appreciate your involvement with the community doing charity work.
           
As for your abilities as a baseball player, I think you are a good player who has a lot of value, as do most of the fans you label “haters”.  The reason we are bringing you up in trade rumors is that we think that you have enough valuable to fill another position of need.  You like to deal from a position of strength and Catcher is strength on this team.  Given John Buck’s contract and Travis d’Arnauds top prospect status, we feel that you can get the most value to help out the Blue Jays in a trade. It is no slight to you that we believe in Travis d’Arnaud, all the things that we hear say and influence our thoughts and opinions.  Despite knowing that there is no such thing as a sure-fire prospect, we believe in his ability.  It is not that we don’t believe in yours, but we just feel that he can be a rare talent.  Once again, this is not meant as a slight, you are a talented and will have a long career.

As I said, it just boils down to the fact that we think you can greatly help this team, just maybe as a part of an equation to add a piece.  No matter what happens, trade or not, we will support you and we will believe.  I would also like to apologize for those who have been tweeting you asinine comments. You don’t truly deserve that.  Twitter searching your own name though will lead to fan concocted rumors. These are just fans looking at ways to improve the team, they aren’t out there to insult you or push you off the ship.  As fans, this is what we do, we speculate and look at ways to improve the team.  If you are traded, I can guarantee that we will be sad, even if we really like what we get in return, because we do appreciate the players who come to the Jays and have a great attitude and work hard. It really is nothing personal JP.
It’s going to be a good year.

Signed,
Jays fans who speculate.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Melky Used PED`s? So What?


            First things first, contrary to what the title suggests, I am not a proponent of Performance Enhancing Drug use.  I think it is unethical and one of the lowest things you can do WITHIN the game of baseball.  Also, if you asked me to pick a Cabrera I’d want on my team, I’d pick Melky over Miggy.  Miggy drank and drove putting innocent people at risk and has been accused of domestic battery. Despite all of Melky’s flaws , I love the acquisition and I don’t worry much about the drop off in production post-PED use.
           
Looking at Melky Cabrera’s skill set that he doesn't rely on power, his ISO the last 2 years has been higher (.164 and .170) but even before his terrible season with the Braves he posted a .142 ISO.   Some of the Melk Mans detractors point out that he has had inflated batting averages on balls in play over the last 2 seasons (.352).  Melky hits lots of ground balls, nearly 50% for his career.  That factor combined with the turf at Rogers Center should/could lead to a higher than normal BABIP.
           
One of Melky’s strengths is his plate discipline, he has decent on base skills (7.3% career walk rate), and doesn't strike out a tonne (12.1%) and those rates have been fairly consistent year to year.  His whiff rate is very low (5.5%) despite a slightly higher than average out of zone swing rate, but he makes great contact on pitches out of the zone, and has good results compared to normal, on pitches out of the zone. 
           
All said and done, Melky doesn't have to be great to live up to his contract, he basically just has to go out there and be a league average LF.  If he’s more than that, and I believe he will be, it’s a great sign.  If all he is, is his 2009 season, he’ll still be a worth his contract.  His skill set doesn't lend itself to being a product of his PED use, but we don’t truly know the impact of PED’s really. That is one of the reasons I am looking at the glass of Melk half full. I’ll show myself out now.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Batted Ball FIP Database

As I have written about at Runs Batted Out and frequently posted about on twitter, I have put in many many hours and have updated bbFIP databases back to the 2003 season. I have never truly publicly posted them, not in an attempt to hide knowledge, just never getting around to it.  So here it is, all my time and effort in this post. There are two different spreadsheets, one for American League and one for National League.  I will continue my work on updating and improving the information within.  The plan for the baseball off-season is to work on career statistics for each pitcher and providing career bbFIP numbers.  I have more plans as well such as bbFIP split as reliever and as a starter.  I'm always looking for new ways to break down the numbers, so feel free to drop me a line with any idea's you may have. You can email me here or tweet at me on the twitter @SMcEwen_Eh

For those who aren't aware of what bbFIP is exactly, (click) here is the link to my post explaining it.

Without further ado, I give you bbFIP 2003-2011

American League (click)

National League (click)

Keep posted as I will star posting updates every 5 days plus full data for 2012 after the season ends.

Enjoy!