Opposite Field: Melky Cabrera Like A Boss

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Opposite Field: Melky Cabrera Like A Boss

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Brian M. Jones

Who amongst us has a boss who seemed undeserving of the praise and a chance to punch the coin box.

Many of you may feel your boss seemed to achieve his position based on some reasoning other than actual performance. Perhaps he took credit for others performances. Maybe it was due to the fact that every time he did do something right the right people were looking. Maybe his mistakes weren’t noticed at all. Maybe the people doing the evaluating weren’t all that qualified to start with.

The positive results of all these scenarios amount to luck.

Sound like someone you know?

No deductive reasoning can tell us why this person is in charge of your daily grind.

Melky Cabrera is this man.

If you own Melky Cabrera in a fantasy league, sell now. The market has never been higher and it never will be.

Melky’s insane performance over the last 18 months has been a by product of a huge amount of luck and I’m about to show you how.

Look at the following chart.

Name

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Austin Jackson

8.7 %

25.2 %

.132

.375

.281

.347

.413

.337

109

11.2

Rogers Hornsby

11.7 %

6.8 %

.236

.373

.370

.448

.606

.475

177

114.0

David Freese

7.9 %

21.4 %

.151

.371

.305

.365

.456

.359

127

7.7

Ty Cobb

10.3 %

3.1 %

.146

.366

.360

.431

.506

.432

144

50.7

Harry Heilmann

9.8 %

5.7 %

.194

.365

.358

.425

.551

.443

151

69.1

Joe Jackson

9.3 %

1.9 %

.182

.364

.367

.434

.550

.453

162

15.6

Rod Carew

9.6 %

9.7 %

.101

.359

.328

.393

.429

.370

132

80.4

Joey Votto

13.6 %

18.3 %

.240

.357

.316

.412

.556

.412

155

27.6

Derek Jeter

8.8 %

14.7 %

.135

.354

.313

.382

.447

.368

123

75.6

Matt Kemp

8.1 %

23.2 %

.209

.354

.297

.354

.506

.369

130

22.1

Mike Darr

10.9 %

22.1 %

.098

.354

.273

.353

.371

.326

98

3.6

Shin-Soo Choo

11.4 %

21.2 %

.183

.354

.291

.383

.474

.374

132

18.9

Carlos Gonzalez

7.5 %

21.5 %

.228

.353

.303

.357

.532

.382

130

17.0

This chart illustrates the top 13 players of ALL-TIME in BABIP between 1919-today with at least 600 plate appearance.  In case you’re unfamiliar with BABIP just follow this link.

Why 13 and what does BABIP have to do with Melky?  Last one first, we know that BABIP contains a large quantity of luck.  There’s that word again.  Some hitters with very good bat control, an ability to hit to all fields, or who cover large areas of the plate can sustain higher BABIPs than normal.  These hitters thusly are able to influence BABIP in a way that is to be viewed as a skill.

I’m betting that Melky is not one these hitters.

The reason I have 13 names on this list is to reference #13 player on the list and put to Melky into the perspective of history.

Carlos Gonzalez has a career .353 BABIP.  That is the same as what Melky has done since the start of 2011.

Take a minute to soak in some of the names on the above list. Do you still think Melky is for real?

Lets explore deeper. From the start of his career in 2005 through 2010 just prior to his breakout season Cabrera put up a .288 BABIP. In 2011 that number jumped to .332 and to .386 through about 100 games in 2012.

If you still think Cabrera has graduated to elite status I offer you the following. If you can suggest that .332 in 2011 his new standard then that would put Melky in a 3 way tie with Lou Gehrig and Larry Walker, both players who carried a .332 BABIP.

So what can we learn by comparision? Gehrig had a 15.6% walk rate and Walker 11.4% Prior to his 2011 break out Melky had a walk rate of 8.0%. This has fallen to 5.0 and 6.7 in 11 and 12. Another area of regression we say from Melky has been an increase, albeit a small one, in his K%. His BA in 2011 jumped 50 points from 2010 and is up almost another 50 in 2012.

I think I have made a fairly good point with the numbers and based on the evidence I see what would I attribute this luck to? My opinion is that from 2010 to 2011 the Melkman saw an increase of nearly 200 plate appearances. Given his drop in BB and K rates combined with a lofty near historic BABIP I would point to the suggestion that Melky is just swinging away. He has sacrificed walks for extra swings and given the massive uptick in BABIP we can deduce those swings are leading to hits.

Finally if you’re going to point to Melkys HR rate or ISO, don’t. Because remembering how BABIP is calculated we know that the HR were already subtracted from the equation. And, if you read my article last week on FIP we know that there are only three true outcomes, homeruns, walks, and strikeouts. A quick look at his plate discipline will enhance the theory I have suggested here.

They support the luck factor by illustrating over the past three years Melky has seen his swing rate jump from just under 25% to 35.5%, he is swinging at more pitches. His first strike swing rate is up 6% and his contact rate up 7%.

Finally lets get back to the fantasy angle.

While there is certainly a chance Melky has improved, I don’t think it is to the degree that we have seen the last year and half. So this comes back to my suggestion to sell Melky. If his drop in BABIP returns back to even a league average of about .300 you can count on big losses of production. Remember fantasy is like playing with living, breathing stocks. Sometimes they get hurt, go to jail or post funny zingers on twitter, but the similarity remains the same. Buy low sell high. Unless Cabrera reaches for truly historic figures you can rest assured selling him now would be selling at his highest.

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Kangaroo Court: When This Baby Hits Colby Lewis…

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Kangaroo Court: When This Baby Hits Colby Lewis…

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Brian M. Jones

With my 2nd weekly column, I told my boss here at FSBB that I’d like to write about baseball. He asked me what area I wanted to focus on. I said just baseball. I like everything about it. The game, the business, the economics, fantasy, the history and the comical and quirky. Basically, I told him, I’d like to write an article that is apropos of nothing. The Seinfeld Show of FSBB. With that I bring you Kangaroo Court. Much ado about nothing, except baseball of course.

Colby Lewis is trying to dial up the past. We all know what happens when you hit 88mph.

Lewis is currently sitting on an average fastball velocity this year of 88.0 mph.

Good enough for time travel.

This got me thinking.

Marty McFly missed a historic game 7.

The DeLorean had been set to October 27th, 1985.

Marty McFly had been so busy making out with his teen mom that he missed game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

A series that contained historic firsts and lasts.

In winning game 7 by a score of 11-0, the Kansas City Royals became the first team to lose the first two series games at home and comeback to win the series. And they became the first team ever to overcome a 3-1 deficit twice in the same post season. After previously defeating the Blue Jays 4 games to 3 to advance to World Series.

This was the first series to be played entirely at night and the last series to have AL pitchers hit at home.

Game 7 also included two ejections. The first time two ejections occurred in a World Series game in 50 years. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. As was the pitcher Joaquin Andujar for a misperceived gesture.

Both were ran by home plate umpire Don Denkinger, who Herzog was already feuding with over a missed call at first base in game 6.

Although, I suppose if McFly hadn’t returned when he did to save Doc Brown from Libyans we’d never have such a classic film remake as Angels in the Outfield.

Side note: I once met Denkinger at a Honda dealership owned by an eldery retired minor leaguer.
Dandy Don told me my wife was too pretty for me. I reminded him his eyesight was shit.
We all had a chuckle.

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The Opposite Field: What’s McCracken

Posted on 28 July 2012 by Brian M. Jones

As the newest contributor to Full Spectrum Baseball, I have chosen to contribute to field of sabermetrics and how they can be applied to fantasy baseball. I hope you enjoy and begin to follow me throughout my journey as I write The Opposite Field, an education in the opposite side of standard statistical analysis.

Looking ahead to this week 18’s pitching matchups, I’m going to show you how I use FIP and xFIP when evaluating what type of success I believe a pitcher is likely to have. To do this we must first understand what FIP and xFIP are and how to apply them.

FIP (originally DIPS – defense independent pitching) stands for fielding independent pitching, the x stands for expected. The premise of the idea, developed by mad scientist Voros McCracken, is that a pitcher only controls three things. Those three things being strikeouts, home runs, and walks allowed.

The desired result of FIP is to equalize all pitchers regardless of how good or bad the defense in play behind them is. (For the real deal on McCracken check out this great bio by Yahoo’s! Jeff Passan). When considering xFIP the idea is taken a step further, by Dave Studeman, to help account for ballpark factors. In xFIP, home runs are replaced with the expected number home runs a pitcher should allow given his fly ball %. This further allows us to more accurately compare a pitcher who plays home games in The Oakland Coleseum versus one who might play home games in US Cellular. The formulas on how to tabulate the two can be found using the links above, however the idea is to reframe the two stats in a way that reads in a manner consistent to ERA.

So How can we apply this to fantasy?

I like to think of FIP as what a pitcher has done and xFIP as how a pitcher is trending. If a pitcher has a moderate FIP and an elevated xFIP that would suggest that said pitcher has been getting a lot of fly ball outs.

In this case you would be wise to avoid streaming/spot starting a pitcher starting in a hitter friendly park such as Great American Ballpark, but could actually be a moderate to strong start in a park such as Petco or Safeco.

Let’s chew on some guys slated to start this upcoming week who might fall into the spot start or streaming category of pitchers and see if we can determine who will be the stronger and weaker moves.

Pitcher                     Team   FIP     xFIP     ERA     Matchup
Millwood, Kevin    SEA     3.55     4.31     4.13      @NYY
Scherzer, Max        DET    3.90     3.35     4.61      @BOS
Porcello, Rick         DET    3.76     3.97     4.40      @BOS
Jackson, Edwin     WAS   4.02     4.09     3.73       vPHI vMIA
Masterson, Justin CLE    3.94     3.99     4.12       @DET
Harang, Aaron       LAD   4.04     4.64     3.45       vAZ vCHC
Milone, Tommy     OAK   4.16      3.97     3.33       vTB vTOR
Doubront, Felix     BOS    4.44     3.82     4.54       vMIN
Richard, Clayton     SD     4.63     4.02     4.17       vNYM
Bailey, Homer        CIN    4.40     4.17      3.74       vSD vPIT

What’s the take away?

Given the xFIP values of each pitcher we can jump to the conclusion (be sure you’re doing your research here) that Aaron Harang gives up the most fly balls, or free pass or he is not striking anyone out. We can use the same reasoning with FIP to assume that Clayton Richard is either, giving up too many home runs, not missing enough bats, or walking too many batters.

This does not mean we won’t want to consider starting either one here. It just means we need to look closer to understand what is contributing to these results and if those deviations are likely to occur in week 18.

The next step would be check on their BB/K rate and each pitchers HR/9 to see what is the probable cause of the excessive FIP. Next we would want to look at their matchup and ballpark. Do your own research here, but for practical analysis we’ll assume that each pitchers faults lie in excessive homeruns. We like this better when streaming a pitcher as a ballpark can curb a pitchers homerun rate but is probably not going to help his control any.

Richard gets a nice draw at Petco versus a struggling New York Mets team. Harangutan gets both of his starts at home. ESPN Park Factors tells us that Dodgers Stadium is in the bottom 8 in both runs scored and home runs allowed. If you follow baseball at all you know that Chicago Cubs are struggling mightily. Additionally Arizona is no power house despite what Jason Kubel will have you believe.

I would not be afraid to start Harang here. Added upside, he has led the league in Ks before too.
Pitchers I would avoid this week would be Homer Bailey, Kevin Millwood, Rick Porcello. I am basing this on a combination of FIP/xFIP and the lineup they will be facing, or in Bailey’s case the park he will be pitching in.

I would recommend starting Richard, Harang and Jackson of this lot. If you’re in a weekly league I’d definantly go Jackson or Harang since they have 2 starts this week.

I hope this helps show how you can draw expected returns by using FIP and xFIP when choosing which pitchers to start for a given week or matchup. Remember to do your due diligence and never look at just one stat as being the best predictive measurement. However, if used in conjunction with Park Factors and match up data we can draw a best guess on who to pitch and who to ditch.

In case you’re still not sold on this advanced metric just take a look at the name values here and see if this helps win you over. Below are the top 10 for FIP listed with their xFIP and ERA for comparision.

Name                            Team           ERA     FIP      xFIP
Zack Greinke              Brewers       3.44     2.50     2.78
Stephen Strasburg    Nationals     2.85     2.56     2.74
Chris Sale                    White Sox    2.39     2.67     3.27
Gio Gonzalez              Nationals     3.13      2.69     3.11
R.A. Dickey                 Mets             2.86     2.85     3.03
Justin Verlander        Tigers          2.42     2.93     3.31
Felix Hernandez        Mariners     2.80     2.95     3.25
Johnny Cueto             Reds             2.23     2.95     3.75
Josh Johnson             Marlins        4.14     2.97     3.42
Clayton Kershaw       Dodgers       3.14     3.02     3.34

As a new contributor I’d like to welcome all the user interaction you can muster.

I HIGHLY encourage you to click on every single link because a few of them truely contain some hidden gems { : ^ D

Send your feedback below or your can hit me up on twitter @TheFantasyPronk.

Send your hate mail to @RobertJBaumann.

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