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Jim Furtado
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Sabermetrics Newsbeat

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Crack in the Defensive Spectrum

Smart and logical as always from Carleton at BP.  Would love to see this topic expanded to cover outfielders and ‘full’ utility players.

“I think there’s a very flawed assumption behind that logic. It implicitly conceptualizes defensive ability as a single dimension. A spectrum, if you will. You’re either good at “defense” or you are not. It’s like saying that “intelligence” is a single thing, but then mumbling when asked to define what that thing is. Instead, I propose that we take a fresh look at the defensive spectrum through the lens of the actual data.”

Brett "The Hitman" Gardner Posted: February 09, 2016 at 03:25 PM | 18 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Darren O’Day deserved top free-agent contract |

Darren O’Day is unique.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 09, 2016 at 01:57 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: darren o'day, orioles, sabermetrics

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Stick to Sports? NEVER! The Intersectionalist Manifesto – HardballTalk

I enjoy and value reading political commentary from baseball people as much I enjoy and value sports commentary from politicians.

That Manny Ortez guy sure can hit!!

Jim Furtado Posted: February 07, 2016 at 07:34 AM | 219 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Friday, February 05, 2016

Stephen Strasburg: This Could Be the Year | FanGraphs Baseball

Tony Blengino’s take.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 05, 2016 at 10:58 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: nationals, sabermetrics, stephen strasburg

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Wainwrightization of Rick Porcello | FanGraphs

Great stuff from Jeff Sullivan.

Granted, there are similarities between lots of great players and lots of inferior players. The limitation of the pitch-comp system is it says nothing about consistency, and I can’t imagine Porcello yet trusts his curve the way that Wainwright has trusted his. One still has to assume Wainwright commands the pitch better, and then there’s also the matter of Wainwright having the cutter, which is better than Porcello’s. The effectiveness of a pitch is in part about the effectiveness of the other pitches, so Porcello still has a lot of proving to do. The point isn’t that Rick Porcello turned into Adam Wainwright when nobody noticed.

The point is simply that Rick Porcello’s curveball has evolved into something extremely similar to Adam Wainwright’s curveball. You can choose how much to make of that. If nothing else, it’s something to watch for.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 04, 2016 at 02:45 PM | 16 comment(s)
  Beats: adam wainwright, cardinals, pitching, red sox, rick porcello, sabermetrics


BP thinks Joe Girardi stunk.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 04, 2016 at 08:53 AM | 13 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, sabermetrics

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The best defensive teams of all time - SweetSpot- ESPN

This team was phenomenal.

1. 1969-73 Baltimore Orioles. A pretty clear choice as the greatest defensive team of all time. If there was a Hall of Fame of Defense, Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger and Paul Blair would all be first-ballot inductees. When Bobby Grich replaced Davey Johnson at second, the defense got even better. There’s a reason Jim Palmer had a career .249 BABIP. In fact, he may owe his Hall of Fame career to the guys playing behind him.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 28, 2016 at 06:59 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: defense, sabermetrics

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Beginning of the End for Pitch-Framing? | FanGraphs Baseball

The theory would go like this: more than ever before, umpires are aware of good framers. They’re aware that good framers can get strikes out of the zone, so then that introduces a bias. Umpires don’t want to be wrong, and their bosses don’t want for them to be wrong. It’s not like an umpire would watch a pitch, then think about a call, then think about the catcher, then change his mind. These decisions happen way too fast, but you’d just have to believe there’s some effect. A different call out of every 10, or 20, or 30, or 50. Something that would show up in bigger samples. It makes sense that, if umpires became aware of great pitch-framing, they might become aware of ways to call the game that have a little less to do with how a catcher moves. And you have to think framing has been on their radar.
There is an alternate explanation, or — if you prefer — a partial explanation. As noted earlier, we’ve seen league buy-in as far as framing goes, and last year individual framing value among the catchers had the lowest standard deviation yet. Which means there’s less of a spread between the best and the worst, and maybe what we’re seeing is just randomness somewhat taking over. The lesser the spread of talent, the greater the role of randomness in determining the results. That could get at the lower correlations, and it would kind of point toward the end of framing in a different way. If everyone’s good, then no one is good.

It’s too soon to say for sure what all is going on. And framing will presumably always matter some, until or unless the strike zone is automated. But, within the industry, there’s been a line of thought that pitch-framing value would be only temporarily useful. Could be we’re starting to see what they mean.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 27, 2016 at 08:32 AM | 60 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tigers will use more data to improve decision-making

What did the “analytics coordinator” do before the change?

“We didn’t really revamp the analytics department,” Avila said Saturday during TigerFest. “We didn’t have an analytics department.”

So in August, Avila promoted Sam Menzin from analytics coordinator to director of baseball operations and hired former Apple executive and Toronto Blue Jays assistant general manager Jay Sartori to serve as senior director of baseball operations in November.

Together, Menzin and Sartori head the analytics department and serve multiple purposes, such as gathering and sharing data at the major league, minor league, amateur and international levels, providing manager Brad Ausmus with advanced metrics on pitching matchups and defensive alignments, and using sabermetrics to recommend which player acquisition would serve the team best.

Overall, their goal is simple — use data to make decisions easier.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 25, 2016 at 06:57 AM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics, tigers

Kevin Kiermaier defense measured with Statcast |

I look forward to when there is enough data to put a run value on each catch using StatCast data.

It’s not quite as big a gap, though Kiermaier still clearly covered more ground. The images line up well with the tracked numbers, which show that Kiermaier’s average distance covered of 58.5 feet on catches was well more than Pagan’s 51.2 or the average center fielder’s 53.8 feet.

Now, let’s be clear about what those images are showing and what they aren’t. Those dots are all catches, without concern for hang time or launch angle, and they don’t show missed balls. Ultimately, there’s an argument that since (in theory, anyway) many types of balls should be caught by literally every capable Major League outfielder, all that’s relevant is showing the extremes, the ones that a great fielder like Kiermaier can get to that lesser defenders cannot, and eliminating the rest. We need to show averages, and perhaps ranges of success. This is a very good first step, but just one of many.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 25, 2016 at 06:36 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: defense, kevin kiermaier, rays, sabermetrics, statcast

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Contacct Theory and the Power Theory | Articles | Bill James Online

This isn’t shocking to people who sim a lot of baseball. The value depends on the home run rate. The more homers getting hit the less important the contact rate. As Don Coffin comments in the article, it’s a difference of long-sequence vs. short-sequence offenses. Right now players aren’t hitting as many homers so the value of contract style hitters, as a lineup group, has risen. (The home run rate also impacts on base percentage as a lower home run rate produces fewer walks.) Of course, if you build a lineup to maximize your home run hitters, they still have tremendous value.

The Iterative Effect

I made this point 40 years ago; if I had copies of my old books I would look up the exact quote.  Suppose that you have a lineup in which every player hits .270 with 10 homers and creates 70 runs.  Suppose that you can substitute for one of those players with a player who hits .270 but with 35 home runs.  That might add to the team 30, 35 runs. 

Go back to the lineup with nine guys who hit .270 with 10 homers.  Suppose that instead of adding power, you add a .300 hitter, a guy who hits .300 but with 10 homers.  That’s not going to add as many runs to your lineup as adding the power hitter.  It will probably improve you by 20, 25 runs, whereas the power hitter would probably add 30, 35.

However, the second time you make the substitution for a power hitter, the second one adds fewer runs than the first one did.  The third power hitter that you add to the lineup adds fewer runs than the second, and the fourth adds fewer than the third.

With a high average hitter, though, the opposite applies.  Adding a second .300 hitter adds more runs than adding the first one; adding a third .300 hitter adds more runs than the second one. 

The reason this is true is that the power hitter is maximizing your ability to capitalize on opportunities, but is diminishing the number of opportunities that remain.  Because there are fewer opportunities left, fewer men left on base to drive in, each additional power hitter has fewer opportunities to work with.  But the .300 hitter is increasing both the number of opportunities, and the rate at which the team will capitalize on its opportunities.  The more of those guys you add, the better.

I made this point 40 years ago, but in a very different context.  Forty years ago I was talking about Greg Luzinski against Rod Carew, Dave Parker against Pete Rose, Jim Rice against Lou Brock.  The thing is, there aren’t any Rod Carews anymore; everybody now wants to be Jim Rice or Dave Parker. 

So the question is, have we gone too far?  Have we moved to the Land of Diminishing Returns?

Well, I certainly believe that we have.  When you start stacking up 40-homer men who drive in less than 100 runs each, you’ve gone too far. 

When the defense start shifting against you and you can’t defeat it with the bunt or by just making late contact to roll the ball the other way, you’ve gone too far. 

We have gone too far.

I am asked sometimes, “What is the undervalued skill in baseball today?  What is the thing that teams don’t value properly, in 2016 major league baseball?”  It’s this.  It’s contact hitting.  That’s what I believe.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 22, 2016 at 06:25 AM | 18 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The State of Analytics Within MLB | FanGraphs Baseball

For teams building departments, the duties of analytics can remain highly conflated and ambiguous. Speaking in generalities, there are three fields within sabermetrics, which have some overlap with one another:

— Data Scientists: Those who manage and manipulate data for the purpose of divining relationships, seeking evidence, and optimizing behavior. Pitch sequencing studies, defensive positioning strategies, and catcher/pitcher stolen base credit allocation are some examples of projects they might work on.

— Developers: Those who have the skills to create/manage systems and structures to display/warehouse/input information. For example, creating internal databases, scouting applications that combine reports with data, and heat maps that coaches can use in their game preparation.

— Predictive analysts: Those who model information and learned intelligence for the sake of judgement/expectations. Player projection systems, player development theory, and player performance metrics would fall under this category.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 19, 2016 at 06:42 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Friday, January 15, 2016

Sabermetrics Is Killing Bad Dugout Decisions | FiveThirtyEight

MLBAM’s records claim that the 2015 Boston Red Sox were the first team to play a full season without a single pitchout. Red Sox manager John Farrell disputed that stat, saying that the Sox threw three, according to the team’s internal numbers. But he acknowledged that Boston downplays the pitchout, although the coaching staff’s philosophy wasn’t dictated by a front-office study. “We try to put it in the hands of the pitcher and the catcher,” Farrell said. “So, varying our hold times, making sure that we school guys enough to have unloading times where they’re controlling the running game and minimizing that without artificially doing it through a pitchout.” In 2015, Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price and then-Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon pitched out 30 and 28 times, respectively, making them by far the most anachronistic skippers in their respective leagues.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 15, 2016 at 07:17 AM | 16 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Monday, January 04, 2016

Baseball Prospectus | Caught Looking: Declaring openWAR

I really wish people would stop reusing the name WAR for their creations. It just confuses people. As for this version, I believe there is a place for a context laden player omnistat. bWAR and fWAR really shouldn’t be used for MVP discussions.

While openWAR is unlikely to move the sabermetric community toward an agreed-upon measure of WAR, the authors of the model have set an admirable standard for transparency and reproducibility. There will still be those who prefer a measure stripped of all context, and the openWAR approach is perhaps better suited for MVP voting than forecasting. But for those who wish to take issue with some elements of their approach, Baumer, Jensen and Matthews have provided a framework and source code that can be built upon.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 04, 2016 at 10:10 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: openwar, sabermetrics, war

Sunday, January 03, 2016


Great entry by Chass.  My nickname is officially The Digital Dandy.

DJS, the Digital Dandy Posted: January 03, 2016 at 02:24 AM | 77 comment(s)
  Beats: bbwaa, chass, sabermetrics

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Disabled List Information and a Little More – The Hardball Times

Jeff Zimmerman updates comprehensive look at the disabled list. What’s up with Texas?

Jim Furtado Posted: December 22, 2015 at 11:04 AM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: disabled list, sabermetrics

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Jays’ Joe Sheehan is living life by the numbers | Toronto Star

He won’t be on the comedy circuit any time soon.

Asked to describe The BEEST to a layman, Sheehan betrays a sense of humour for the first time in the half-hour interview.

“It’s approaching self-awareness,” he deadpans, completely straight faced. “It might launch the nukes next year, judgment day.”

After letting his joke sink in, Sheehan explains that the database functions as a one-stop shop for all of the organization’s analytical tools, consolidating scouting and health reports with statistical projections and contract details. “It lets you just go to one place and find everything you want to know about a guy,” he says. “It reduces the information gathering part and let’s you focus on the evaluative part.”

“It will never replace the human element.” Is there any sane person pushing to replace the human element? Despite what some might believe, humans make judgement calls in designing and generating analytics. Ultimately scouting and analytics are just different types of information which *humans* use to make decisions.The human element, therefore, is not going anywhere.

So, if people would just accept the TPS reports for what they are, that would be great.

While analytics are an important evaluative tool, Shapiro said earlier this week, it will never replace the human element.

“The beauty of baseball and the beauty of sport is that it’s played by human beings and people that come with frailties and imperfections and ultimately are immeasurable,” he said. “… We will never dehumanize a decision. Analytics lead us to make better decisions — they objectively challenge a gut that can you lead to an emotional or momentum-based decision — and they contribute to really good decisions. But analytics don’t produce decisions; they contribute to good decisions.”
What he loves most about his job, he says, is the competition, even though he spends most of his time crunching numbers in an office.

“The players are playing the game and doing the majority of it, but whatever little piece we can do, whether it’s trying to add somebody or make a trade, that’s the best part. That’s the reason I do it.”

Jim Furtado Posted: December 20, 2015 at 07:48 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: blue jays, sabermetrics

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Will Chicago Cubs’ historic combo of young talent produce a dynasty? | FOX Sports

How many teams since 1950 have had three position players under 28 years old, each with greater than 5.0 WAR? Only 16. The 2016 Cubs are projected to be another, the first since the 2009 Rays. This is rare territory, in which the combination of youth and incredible talent occurs. Based on the evidence here, expectations for the Cubs are probably right where it should be heading into the 2016 season: they just added one of the top 15 players in baseball to a strong, young core that already included two other players that ranked among baseball’s best. Before that happened, they got Ben Zobrist, another player with a proven track record.

How much more can a 97-win team improve itself? We might not think very much, but it’s happening in front of our eyes. That’s domination of the market, and it’s no doubt scary for everyone who has to face them next year. Most of all, though, it’s rare: the whisperings of a potential dynasty built on the work of good scouting, and a few cool December nights in Nashville.

Jim Furtado Posted: December 15, 2015 at 11:49 AM | 88 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, sabermetrics

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh illustrate the reciprocal nature of framing - Beyond the Box Score

Against righties, Keuchel threw outside notably more than McHugh did. Against lefties, Keuchel threw outside waaaay more than McHugh did. By targeting the areas where his catchers excelled, Keuchel reaped their rewards—a strategy that McHugh, for whatever reason, declined to employ.

Jim Furtado Posted: December 09, 2015 at 03:43 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: pitch framing, sabermetrics

Carlos Carrasco is extremely valuable in trade |

The deal Greinke signed, starting with his age-32 season next year, will pay him more than $34 million in 2016, or approximately $1 million per start. The extension Carrasco signed last April pays him roughly the same, $37.5 million, but over the next five seasons combined—and even that’s only if the team exercises the 2019 and ‘20 club options. He’s making about the same over five seasons as Happ, who is nearly five years older and with a fraction of the success, is making over three. Carrasco is owed 17 percent of what Price is.

We could make that comparison all night long, but you get the idea. You could even argue that Carrasco’s contract makes him as or more valuable than Jose Fernandez, who is cheaper and younger but also controllable for only three more seasons. (And, according to reports, isn’t even really on the market.)

Really, the combination of these attributes is so rare. Talented pitchers are expensive (Kershaw, Greinke, Price, etc.), or nearing free agency (Stephen Strasburg), or on teams who wouldn’t even consider moving them due to competitive or fanbase reasons (Arrieta, Madison Bumgarner, Felix Hernandez, etc.) If you want to argue Carrasco against Sonny Gray, so be it, but Carrasco was better in nearly every way in 2015, and it’s splitting hairs at that point anyway.

Cleveland may very well decide against moving Carrasco, but it’s easy to see the Indians have needs, particularly without a center fielder and with Michael Brantley’s shoulder surgery further complicating matters. If they were to hold out for an A.J. Pollock, Yasiel Puig, Jorge Soler or George Springer as mere starting points, they’d be entirely justified to do so. Carrasco’s that good. His contract makes him that valuable.

Jim Furtado Posted: December 09, 2015 at 06:58 AM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: carlos carrasco, indians, sabermetrics

Friday, December 04, 2015

Hardball Retrospective – General Manager Trading Scorecard |

I don’t have time to go through all this at the moment but at first glance it looks like some impressive research.

Jim Furtado Posted: December 04, 2015 at 04:34 PM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: general managers, sabermetrics

Closer Utilization Trends and Where They’re Headed | Banished to the Pen

Twenty years is far too short a timeframe. This graphic shows the average duration of reliever appearances over time. 1995-2015 has pretty much the same usage pattern.

Pitchers like Drew Storen, who were once an anomaly, have now become the norm. Storen was solely a reliever in college, and threw only 53 2/3 minor-league innings before making his MLB debut. The most innings the right-hander has pitched in a professional season: 79 2/3, between his sophomore season at Stanford and his first year in the Nationals’ organization.

Even if front offices and field staffs want to begin using closers longer in games, the data suggests that pitchers are now conditioned to work three outs and rarely more. Because of that, the next step in reliever usage doesn’t appear to be calling on the Aroldis Chapmans of the world for more than one inning during the majority of the season.

Instead, the real sea change will happen when managers begin using their closers in the highest-leverage situations late in the game—regardless of conventional baseball thinking or contract incentives that reward saves.

Jim Furtado Posted: December 04, 2015 at 10:38 AM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Spd: scoring speed among top prospects | News | The Official Site of Minor League Baseball

Sam Dykstra compares Speed Scores and players’ scouting ratings.

Jim Furtado Posted: December 03, 2015 at 08:17 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: minors, sabermetrics, scouting

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Will David Price live up to the value of his contract?

Data worth considering.

Although it’s rare to see a pitcher dominate in his late 30s, it’s certainly not unheard of. But what was hard for so many of these players wasn’t remaining relevant in “old age.” It was sticking around at all.

Star pitchers are rare, and given their ability to significantly impact their teams, they’ve become highly demanded—and thus highly compensated. If Price is able to avoid injury and stay around the big leagues for another decade or so, it’s not crazy to think he’s worth the eye-popping numbers found in his contract. However, even star pitchers tend to gradually regress and drop out of baseball altogether by the time they’ve hit their mid-to-late-30s. What may end up determining whether Price lives up to his salary figures is whether he’s able to actually play all the way through the seven-year contract.

Jim Furtado Posted: December 02, 2015 at 08:55 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: david price, red sox, sabermetrics

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The 3-man rotation? It’s coming ... sometime, says Bill James

Suppose that a team used a three-man starting rotation, but limited each pitcher to 80 pitches a start or five innings. (This actually would work with 90 pitches a start, but 80 is more conservative, so I’m going to use 80 as a working premise.) Anyway, a starting pitcher always and absolutely comes out of the game as soon as

1) He has pitched five innings, or

2) He has thrown 80 pitches.

No exceptions. Eighty pitches, it’s the fifth inning, you’re ahead 9-0 and you have two outs and two strikes on the hitter ... tough luck, Sally, you should have thrown more strikes earlier in the game.

Steve Carlton just threw up in his mouth.

eddieot Posted: November 25, 2015 at 11:18 AM | 43 comment(s)
  Beats: bill james, sabermetrics

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