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Friday, August 15, 2014

Sullivan: Going inside Michael Brantley’s dramatic, MVP-like improvement

On the other hand, Matt LaPorta is opening up a pizza place, so I think the Brewers are ok with it.

Used to be, in terms of performance, [Michael] Brantley was consistently, exactly average. Now, take a trip through the Wins Above Replacement leaderboard. You see Mike Trout at the top, naturally. Then there’s Alex Gordon, and Josh Donaldson, a previous breakthrough. Hanging out with the likes of Giancarlo Stanton is Brantley, who this year has become a fringe MVP candidate…

Brantley is pulling the ball more, especially against fastballs… By and large, against non-fastballs, Brantley hasn’t been that different. He’s been better, but only slightly… he’s looking for a fastball to drive, and he’s willing to swing at the fastball hard… Brantley’s seeing fewer fastballs than ever, and he’s seeing fewer strikes than ever, because now he’s more often punishing fastballs and punishing strikes. This is what happens when players adjust in the major leagues—the major leagues adjust back, in response. Brantley’s been excellent in the second half, so he’s still coming out ahead…

Brantley has gotten more and more aggressive within the strike zone, but he hasn’t lost any of his discipline. He’s not swinging at more pitches out of the zone than he did in 2010. He’s making the same amount of contact… There’s nothing dramatic here. There’s no swing overhaul. There’s no adjusted stance. Brantley always had the skills. Now he’s just figured out how to put them all together in the right way.

The District Attorney Posted: August 15, 2014 at 05:43 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: indians, jeff sullivan, michael brantley, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Boxkutter Posted: August 16, 2014 at 02:37 AM (#4772282)
I traded Brantley and a minor leaguer for Carlos Gonzalez before the season started in my keeper league. Been regretting that one a bit all season.
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 16, 2014 at 11:46 AM (#4772368)
Moving from LF to CF (when Michael Bourn got hurt) has to have helped the ol' WAR.
   3. BDC Posted: August 16, 2014 at 01:00 PM (#4772412)
I don't know about this case – Brantley's improvement on offense has been drastic – but I do wonder in general whether WAR is too narrowly pegged to single positions. Going from LF to CF, your batting runs don't change, your dWAR theoretically shouldn't change – and yet you suddenly acquire a positional advantage and whatever benefit might accrue from being compared in oWAR terms to a weaker set of hitters. Should your value among the entire group of major-league outfielders change that much?

Though I imagine the effect isn't huge, and the number of cases where it might matter not large.
   4. The District Attorney Posted: August 16, 2014 at 01:12 PM (#4772416)
I have basically the opposite concern about WAR than is suggested by #2's concern that a CF-capable guy who had been in LF would artificially gain WAR when he moves to CF. I think that the value of exceptional defensive corner outfielders (Heyward, Brett Gardner, prime Carl Crawford, etc.) is being overstated by WAR, presumably because they're being compared to a bunch of defensive mooks.

Maybe the fact that both criticisms are simultaneously being made means that WAR is correct, or maybe it means it's really wrong ;)
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: August 16, 2014 at 03:33 PM (#4772456)
I think that the value of exceptional defensive corner outfielders (Heyward, Brett Gardner, prime Carl Crawford, etc.) is being overstated by WAR, presumably because they're being compared to a bunch of defensive mooks.


War is a value stat, if you are saving more runs on defense than the average player at that position, because the average is being brought down by a group of "defensive mooks" it doesn't change the value you bring to the table. It's the same concept for park effects in that it doesn't matter if you are more suitable to take advantage of the park you play in, the results is still relative to what everyone else does.

Going from LF to CF, your batting runs don't change, your dWAR theoretically shouldn't change
Why not? You are now being compared to a different set of guys, where defensive value is more important than the position you are coming from, so the average should be higher? Again, some players might be better suited for the move and may not get hurt with the move,(a high speed, bad jump fielder might benefit from that move to the point that his rField wouldn't take a hit therefore increasing his dWar.)while most others will be hurt simply because the average defensive expectation in center is higher than the average defensive expectation in the corners.
   6. PreservedFish Posted: August 16, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4772495)
War is a value stat, if you are saving more runs on defense than the average player at that position, because the average is being brought down by a group of "defensive mooks" it doesn't change the value you bring to the table.


But there's another level here. If a few stupid teams are running Adam Dunn or other lumbering oafs out there, it does not, in any real way, make your athletic LF more valuable than he would be otherwise.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: August 16, 2014 at 05:41 PM (#4772502)
But there's another level here. If a few stupid teams are running Adam Dunn or other lumbering oafs out there, it does not, in any real way, make your athletic LF more valuable than he would be otherwise.


If a few stupid teams are running crappy fielders out there, it's bringing the average down. I don't get the issue with this. Are you arguing that instead of basing defense upon relative to average, that maybe defense should be rated based upon relative to mean? This way the extreme outliers like Jeter or Manny or whoever, don't bring the average down? or on the flip side, great guys like Ozzie or peak Andruw don't bring the average up?

   8. BDC Posted: August 16, 2014 at 05:47 PM (#4772506)
If a few stupid teams are running Adam Dunn or other lumbering oafs out there, it does not, in any real way, make your athletic LF more valuable than he would be otherwise

Yes. It does not mean you would be smart to trade for him and move him to right or center. But it does mean that for that season, he won games relative to the oafish fielders. It's no different than if he was beating up on weak pitching; the runs still count.

fanboy may be right here, in that dWAR, though it allows for comparisons across positions, is not truly "fungible." Someone who holds their own in LF would be a bad CF with the exact same dWAR, which makes perfect sense. But fanboy's point is that he'd be an even worse CF, with an even lower dWAR, given the demands of CF.

I 'm not 100% sure of that. A lot of outfielders move from position to position (in the OF) in the course of a season, temporarily, permanently, or just ad hoc. Fourth outfielders often play all three slots at some point. Guys slide around in the course of their careers, usually from center to right to left, sometimes less predictably. I just wonder if evaluation by precise position is the best way to assess them.
   9. Ziggy Posted: August 16, 2014 at 05:51 PM (#4772510)
CFB I assume you mean 'median'?
   10. The District Attorney Posted: August 16, 2014 at 06:00 PM (#4772512)
It's no different than if he was beating up on weak pitching; the runs still count.
Hey, I have no problem taking that into account. We should probably do it a lot more than we do. If A and B have the same hitting stats, but A faces pitchers who allow an OPS .050 lower than the pitchers B faces, then presumably A is the better hitter.

You don't, however, have the situation where there are only a couple of dozen pitchers in baseball, and some of them are pitching for reasons other than their ability to pitch. Your hitting stats are compiled by facing many, many different pitchers a handful of times each, and every pitcher you compete against is in the group of "the best available pitchers." That's different in several respects than the pool of fielders that you're (allegedly?) competing against.
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: August 16, 2014 at 06:44 PM (#4772524)
CFB I assume you mean 'median'?

Yes.
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: August 16, 2014 at 06:58 PM (#4772528)
Hey, I have no problem taking that into account. We should probably do it a lot more than we do. If A and B have the same hitting stats, but A faces pitchers who allow an OPS .050 lower than the pitchers B faces, then presumably A is the better hitter.


War isn't an evaluation of talent level, it's a value stat. That is why fangraphs version of war for pitchers is wrong. It measure how much the player and the results of his action have helped his team relative to the league. It doesn't matter whether he was tailored for the situation or got lucky based upon the level of competition he faced. It's still value relative to a team win.

If you want to evaluate whether to trade for him or whether he will help out in your park, you shouldn't use war as a piece of evidence to make that deal.

fanboy may be right here, in that dWAR, though it allows for comparisons across positions, is not truly "fungible." Someone who holds their own in LF would be a bad CF with the exact same dWAR, which makes perfect sense. But fanboy's point is that he'd be an even worse CF, with an even lower dWAR, given the demands of CF.


Not really saying that as an absolute, generally speaking the average defense from centerfielders is higher quality than average defense from either of the corner positions, so as a general rule, a player moving from the corner to center, is going up against much better competition and since defensive stats are based upon average, that he is going to have to be especially tailored for the position change just to maintain the same level of quality relative to average.

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