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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Verducci: The worst positions in baseball—and how to fix them

By using the Beane Reflect.

Before the playoffs began, I asked A’s general manager Billy Beane what he liked best about his club. “Baseball teams are very mathematical,” he said. “You can have a star player like Mike Trout and completely nullify his performance if you have two players that are really bad. We don’t have bad players. All 25 players are very specific players with very specific roles.

“We’re a mutual fund, and we’re a value fund. We’ve got a bunch of equities earning three to nine percent. We don’t have a 20 percent and we don’t have a negative 20 percent.”

Oakland was one of just 10 teams last year that did not have a player qualify for the batting title with an adjusted OPS of 100 or less. Six of those teams made the playoffs. The lesson is to avoid the negative-20-percenters. Don’t give too much playing time to lousy players, which can negate the advantages of your very good players—and if you do have such a problem, fix it.

Rightfield

NL: Pittsburgh Pirates (80): Travis Snider didn’t work out and Jose Tabata is a reminder of how long-term contracts for young players don’t always pay off. Pittsburgh did address the problem for the stretch drive by renting Marlon Byrd for a month.

Solution: Gregory Polanco, 22, began 2013 in High A and finished in Triple A, posting an overall slash line of .285/.356/.434. He is the ultimate solution, though some combination of Snider, Tabata, Andrew Lambo or some marginal veteran to be named likely will serve as placeholders until June.

AL: New York Yankees (73). Oh, Babe. It’s hard to believe the Yankees played Ichiro Suzuki in 150 games. His .342 slugging percentage was the second worst ever by a New York rightfielder with so much playing time and the worst in 107 years, since Willie Keeler in 1906.

Solution: Sign free agent Shin-Shoo Choo, who had a 143 OPS+ for Cincinnati in 2013, the second-highest of his career.

Repoz Posted: November 20, 2013 at 10:12 AM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. AROM Posted: November 20, 2013 at 10:30 AM (#4602917)
Oh, Babe. It’s hard to believe the Yankees played Ichiro Suzuki in 150 games. His .342 slugging percentage was the second worst ever by a New York rightfielder with so much playing time and the worst in 107 years, since Willie Keeler in 1906.


Ichiro and Wee Willie showing up on the same list is appropriate. Though Willie in 1906 was actually a good hitter considering the dead ball, his OPS+ was 108.
   2. flournoy Posted: November 20, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4602940)
From the article:

San Francisco leftfielders hit fewer home runs (5) than Cubs pitchers (6).


Wow!
   3. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: November 20, 2013 at 11:09 AM (#4602943)
“We’re a mutual fund, and we’re a value fund. We’ve got a bunch of equities earning three to nine percent. We don’t have a 20 percent and we don’t have a negative 20 percent.”


Which team is the Long/Short Fund?
   4. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: November 20, 2013 at 11:19 AM (#4602948)
It's pretty incredible that the Yankees were playoff contenders last season with how much complete dreck was in their line-up.
   5. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: November 20, 2013 at 11:31 AM (#4602963)
It's pretty incredible that the Yankees were playoff contenders last season with how much complete dreck was in their line-up.


It's the unfair advantage they had by paying enormous salaries to Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and CC Sabathia.
   6. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: November 20, 2013 at 11:44 AM (#4602974)
Braves center field is sad that it got left out.
   7. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: November 20, 2013 at 11:55 AM (#4602979)
“We’re a mutual fund, and we’re a value fund. We’ve got a bunch of equities earning three to nine percent. We don’t have a 20 percent and we don’t have a negative 20 percent.”

Which team is the Long/Short Fund?

Looking just at position players, it's the Royals. Their best BBRef WAR is 4.2, their worst is -0.4, for a total spread of 4.6 WAR. The Marlins, White Sox, and Phillies are the other teams with spreads under 5, but they all have a batter with a WAR of -1.2 or lower. If you include pitchers, the answer is either the Cubs or the Nationals. They both had a total spread of 5.7 WAR:

Team    High    Low
CHC     4.4     
-1.3
WSN     4.8     
-0.9 
   8. Ron J2 Posted: November 20, 2013 at 12:01 PM (#4602986)
#6 I was going to assume that the guys who played CF was Upton wasn't had played well. Sort of. They hit .251/.352/.387 which an awful lot of teams would happily settle for. And isn't bad when it's the fallback plan when the initial one failed so spectacularly.

I guess the Braves have decent options without doing anything. It's reasonable to hope Upton gives you something close to 3 WAR or that the can ham'n egg an OF spot.




   9. puck Posted: November 20, 2013 at 12:08 PM (#4602993)
Looking just at position players, it's the Royals. Their best BBRef WAR is 4.2, their worst is -0.4, for a total spread of 4.6 WAR. The Marlins, White Sox, and Phillies are the other teams with spreads under 5, but they all have a batter with a WAR of -1.2 or lower.

How are you selecting players?

The Rockies have a position player spread of 6.9: Tulo at 5.3 and Jordan Pacheco at -1.6. For pitchers it's 6.7 with Chacin at 5.8 and Roy Oswalt at -0.9. (Jeff Francis is right there at -0.8.)
   10. JRVJ Posted: November 20, 2013 at 12:39 PM (#4603014)
At the risk of reopening the Carlos Ruiz contract arguments, I really don't understand how Verducci reaches his conclusiones here:


AL: Chicago White Sox (60): Do you wonder how in the world Carlos Ruiz, who turns 35 in January, can get a three-year deal from Philadelphia? (By the way, the Phillies shouldn't expect much for their money given his age. Over the past 75 years, only three NL catchers at least 35 years old have played 120 games with an OPS+ of at least 100: Mike Piazza, Benito Santiago and Alan Ashby). Good catchers are hard to find. Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley each were handed auditions on the South Side but neither one cemented the job.


It almost seems like he had already opined on the matter, the data didn't support him, so hey, a little snark goes a long way.....
   11. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: November 20, 2013 at 12:43 PM (#4603017)
I was going to assume that the guys who played CF was Upton wasn't had played well. Sort of. They hit .251/.352/.387 which an awful lot of teams would happily settle for. And isn't bad when it's the fallback plan when the initial one failed so spectacularly.


They got a career half-season out of Jordan Schafer, which helped. They certainly can't plan on that happening again. Jordan Schafer is not good. He's vaguely useful if used only against RHP and as a pinch runner. The only fix they have is sitting back, taking a long swig from the bottle and repeating "man, I sure do hope we get the other BJ Upton the next four years."
   12. flournoy Posted: November 20, 2013 at 12:51 PM (#4603024)
#6 I was going to assume that the guys who played CF was Upton wasn't had played well. Sort of.


Hmm... uh, yes. Sort of. What?
   13. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: November 20, 2013 at 01:08 PM (#4603038)
How are you selecting players?

The Rockies have a position player spread of 6.9: Tulo at 5.3 and Jordan Pacheco at -1.6. For pitchers it's 6.7 with Chacin at 5.8 and Roy Oswalt at -0.9. (Jeff Francis is right there at -0.8.)


I think you misread "Rockies" when I wrote "Royals". Both unimpressive teams from rectangular states...
   14. Guapo Posted: November 20, 2013 at 01:10 PM (#4603040)
San Francisco leftfielders hit fewer home runs (5) than Cubs pitchers (6).


Barry is rested and ready to go.
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 20, 2013 at 01:11 PM (#4603041)

It's hard to believe that Alcides Escobar started 74 games in the first or second spots in the batting order. His OBP last year was .259. His career OBP is .295. You do not want him anywhere near the top of the lineup, especially for nearly half the season. It seems obvious. But then, these are the Royals. It was not obvious to manager Ned Yost.


LOL, its not really hard to believe considering how this franchise is run.
   16. Sweatpants Posted: November 20, 2013 at 01:13 PM (#4603046)
They got a career half-season out of Jordan Schafer, which helped. They certainly can't plan on that happening again. Jordan Schafer is not good. He's vaguely useful if used only against RHP and as a pinch runner. The only fix they have is sitting back, taking a long swig from the bottle and repeating "man, I sure do hope we get the other BJ Upton the next four years."
Schafer didn't really contribute much in CF. He put up a .223/.305/.351 line in 106 PA there, which is pretty much typical Jordan Schafer. The only Braves CF who hit last year was Jason Heyward.
   17. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 20, 2013 at 01:30 PM (#4603057)
NL: Pittsburgh Pirates (80): Travis Snider didn’t work out and Jose Tabata is a reminder of how long-term contracts for young players don’t always pay off. Pittsburgh did address the problem for the stretch drive by renting Marlon Byrd for a month.


Verducci is a moron. Snider was terrible, but Tabata had a .282/.342/.429 batting line last year (119 OPS+), and that's perfectly adequate for a cheap corner bat. Also, the Byrd trade was made not to provide a replacement in RF but to provide one in LF, since it happened right after Starling Marte suffered an injury that took him out for nearly all of the remaining regular season.
   18. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: November 20, 2013 at 01:42 PM (#4603066)
Good article from Verducci. Problems, solutions.
   19. Ron J2 Posted: November 20, 2013 at 01:46 PM (#4603071)
#11 Well they're paying for Upton so he'll get every chance, but as fallback position go Heyward in CF and find a corner OF isn't a hopeless situation. Yeah Heyward's not a CF and you can't just assume you can dig up a corner OF, but as problems go it's not the worst.

   20. Perry Posted: November 20, 2013 at 01:51 PM (#4603074)
I think you misread "Rockies" when I wrote "Royals". Both unimpressive teams from rectangular states...


Missouri doesn't look that rectangular to me, although if I squint a little I guess I could see a parallelogram.
   21. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: November 20, 2013 at 02:04 PM (#4603084)
Missouri doesn't look that rectangular to me, although if I squint a little I guess I could see a parallelogram.

Most of my blood relations are from Kansas City, KS. I forget that the city has a different part.
   22. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: November 20, 2013 at 02:42 PM (#4603108)
#6 I was going to assume that the guys who played CF was Upton wasn't had played well. Sort of.


Hmm... uh, yes. Sort of. What?

That gave me pause also. Further, I was wondering about the meaning of this:

...or that the can ham'n egg an OF spot.
   23. puck Posted: November 20, 2013 at 02:46 PM (#4603112)
I think you misread "Rockies" when I wrote "Royals". Both unimpressive teams from rectangular states...

I didn't misread, I guess I was confused as to why the Royals were there if there are teams (or a team) with bigger gaps.

Re. unimpressive teams from rectangular states, I guess it's good Wyoming doesn't have a team. (I think they lost their only minor league team, the Rockies rookie league team moved to Grand Junction, CO.)
   24. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: November 20, 2013 at 02:49 PM (#4603115)
Oakland was one of just 10 teams last year that did not have a player qualify for the batting title with an adjusted OPS of 100 or less.


"Just" 10? 10 seems like a lot. How many regular shortstops or catchers have an OPS+ over 100? If you asked me this question, how many players didn't have a batting title qualifier 100 or lower, I'd have guessed maybe 3 or 4.
   25. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: November 20, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4603120)
I didn't misread, I guess I was confused as to why the Royals were there if there are teams (or a team) with bigger gaps.

Erm, because he was looking for the teams with the smallest gaps...
   26. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: November 20, 2013 at 03:04 PM (#4603138)
"Just" 10? 10 seems like a lot. How many regular shortstops or catchers have an OPS+ over 100?


There aren't. The "qualified for the batting title" qualifier eliminates them (and promotes their team.) the red Sox are one of the 10 despite WMB's 88 OPS+ because he didn't qualify. A few more PAs by Mark Ellis (OPS+ 92), would have disqualified the Dodgers. The Blue Jays are one despite a 59 OPS+ (in 497 PA) from their catcher.

It's marginally interesting, but not very significant trivia.
   27. this space for rent Posted: November 20, 2013 at 03:10 PM (#4603142)
"Just" 10? 10 seems like a lot. How many regular shortstops or catchers have an OPS+ over 100? If you asked me this question, how many players didn't have a batting title qualifier 100 or lower, I'd have guessed maybe 3 or 4.


But many of those guys don't qualify for the batting title. In particular only 10 catchers (per FanGraphs) total qualified in 2013, basically just the guys with enough bat to play 1B or DH when not behind the plate.

Sogard and Reddick both logged more PT at their positions (2B and RF respectively) than anyone else on the A's, but because they didn't qualify for the batting title they somehow don't count against the A's "perfect record."

Edit: Georgia's best to Misirlou.
   28. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: November 20, 2013 at 03:32 PM (#4603177)
The problem is that qualifying is too high a bar to demonstrate the intended point. AL teams only average five qualifiers (NL teams less), and there's a selection bias toward players who don't suck, so going 4-for-4 or 5-for-5 on qualifiers isn't that uncommon and doesn't preclude those teams from having multiple positions be sinkholes.

What made the A's special was that they had 16 players with at least 120 PA (no one else was above 36) for a total of 5996, and there was only one dreadful performance in the bunch: 65 OPS+ in 154 PA from Rosales. Reddick's 93 in 441 was also inadequate for a regular right fielder, but literally everyone else met the minimum acceptable standard for their intended role, with most far exceeding it.
   29. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: November 20, 2013 at 04:05 PM (#4603203)
I learned from this article that Yuni Betancourt played 55 games at 1B in 2013. That strikes me as . . . well, if ever there were a white flag, that was it.
   30. Walt Davis Posted: November 20, 2013 at 04:19 PM (#4603214)
both examples are a bit odd. as noted tabata is pretty much an exemplar of the non-suck player. and while ichiro sucks with the bat he apparently contributed enough in the field to not suck. true ichiro is a good bet to suck in 2014.
   31. zonk Posted: November 20, 2013 at 04:20 PM (#4603215)
San Francisco leftfielders hit fewer home runs (5) than Cubs pitchers (6).



Barry is rested and ready to go.


So is Carlos Zambrano, though...
   32. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: November 20, 2013 at 04:31 PM (#4603228)
Barry is rested and ready to go.


With all the cycling Barry has been doing, he just may be in the best shape of his life!
   33. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: November 20, 2013 at 04:38 PM (#4603234)
With all the cycling Barry has been doing, he just may be in the best shape of his life!

Sure, he probably knows how to do the steroids properly now.
   34. Dale Sams Posted: November 20, 2013 at 05:18 PM (#4603289)
AL: New York Yankees (62): Talk about an epic fail. How does the most expensive team in baseball, playing its games in a bandbox of a ballpark, post a DH slash line of .189/.276/.307



Same as all the other teams who don't take the position seriously.

Boesch had a 123 OPS+ for them and they released him.

Centerfield AL: Houston Astros (60): For a team that lost 111 games, it's surprising the Astros hold only one of the nine AL worst position spots



This is a team that let J.B. Shuck walk. Nothing they do surprises me.

   35. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: November 20, 2013 at 05:38 PM (#4603299)
I feel like the Astros don't get enough credit for being historically bad. They lost 111 games this year, after losing 106 and 107 in 2011 and 2012. That's an amazingly bad run. Even the early aughts Tigers weren't that bad.
   36. Ron J2 Posted: November 20, 2013 at 05:48 PM (#4603306)
#22 And others The sort of is a result of a bad edit. I had "very well" at one point and "very well" is an overbid for the line I listed. Edited one part and not the other.

Ham'n egg: Hmm have to think about how to explain this. It's an expression I heard years ago from a friend and it made perfect sense in context. How about using cheap players and being successful. Often platoons or semi-platoons.

EDIT: For clarity.
   37. Walt Davis Posted: November 20, 2013 at 09:15 PM (#4603456)
I learned from this article that Yuni Betancourt played 55 games at 1B in 2013. That strikes me as . . . well, if ever there were a white flag, that was it.

And the Brewers flew it from opening day!

Kidding ... and we did talk about it a good bit at the time. The Brewers had a ton of injuries at 1B (Corey Hart missed the whole year) and their couple of "prospects" weren't doing anything. Yuni was probably option #6 and a last-second one at that, released by the Phils on March 24 and signed on March 26. By the time you enter spring training, the "freely available" talent isn't freely available anymore until end of spring cuts ... and that's pretty much the dregs of the dregs, especially at positions.

I mean it was a horrible, horrible idea but I'm sure the Brewers knew that and took it as the best of the horrible options available to them.

By the way, of players with at least 50 games at 1B, only 21 of them had at least 1 WAR. None of them was freely available for 2013 although you could have had Brandon Moss for free back in 2012. At #26 with a whopping .5 WAR you had the freely available Chris Carter and at .2 WAR Lyle Overbay. But both were going to be spring training starters for the team that had them and certainly not freely available at the end of March.

The did try Sean Halton, their 26-year-old AAA guy, out there after mid-season and he put up a 687 OPS and 0 WAR. 30-year-old Blake Lalli got a few games in April and May and put up a 250 OPS (-.5 WAR). They gave 16 starts to Lucroy and his back-up Maldonado (41 OPS+ overall but hit 718 OPS at 1B ... go figure).

At #30 you start to enter below replacement level ... and most of these guys were still not close to freely available. Brett Wallace and Greg Dobbs maybe.

The Brewers did pick up Juan Francisco from the Braves in June and he was good for -.7 WAR despite non-embarrassing hitting (97 OPS+) which, yes, is still better than Yuni but not freely available in March.

That's not to say a bit more planning ahead might have been a good thing, maybe offering an NRI to Overbay or something. But things could have been worse, they could have gotten in on the Mike Morse deal (-.5 WAR for $7 M!!). Shopping on the "not suck" market is a tricky business.
   38. JJ1986 Posted: November 20, 2013 at 09:27 PM (#4603470)
None of them was freely available for 2013 although you could have had Brandon Moss for free back in 2012.


Mike Carp was freely available and put up 1.3 WAR as a part-time player. He's probably being counted as a LF.
   39. Buck Coats Posted: November 21, 2013 at 12:43 AM (#4603648)
At #26 with a whopping .5 WAR you had the freely available Chris Carter and at .2 WAR Lyle Overbay. But both were going to be spring training starters for the team that had them and certainly not freely available at the end of March.


Lyle Overbay was signed by the Yankees on March 26 (same day as Yuni)
   40. DFA Posted: November 21, 2013 at 03:43 AM (#4603687)
Sure, he probably knows how to do the steroids properly now.


Blood doping is the new market inefficiency!
   41. zonk Posted: November 21, 2013 at 09:24 AM (#4603718)
Walt re:37

As usual, your lists are thorough and impeccable... but I think the one thing Carter, Francisco, Wallace and perhaps a few others have over Yuni is a non-absolute certainty that they'd suck. Perhaps a 99% certainty, but if Yunesky Betancourt is your answer then beg for a new question... and if you don't get one, just keep phoning in bomb threats to your own stadium until you do.

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