Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fangraphs: Dave Cameron: Smoltz = Weaver (The Good One)

Today, the Cardinals signed John Smoltz to occupy the #5 spot in their rotation for the rest of the season, after he officially cleared release waivers and was let go by the Red Sox. With an 8.32 ERA at age 42, it might be easy to say that Smoltz’s eight appearances in Boston signify that he’s done as a major league pitcher.

But the sample was just 40 innings, and anything can happen to practically anyone in 40 innings. For example, here’s Smoltz’s career in Boston compared with Jered Weaver’s last 8 starts for the Angels.

Smoltz: 8 GS, 40 IP, 59 H, 9 BB, 33 K, 8 HR, 8.33 ERA, 4.94 FIP
Weaver: 8 GS, 46 IP, 51 H, 18 BB, 54 K, 10 HR, 6.50 ERA, 4.93 FIP

Over the last couple of months, there’s very little separating how Weaver and Smoltz have pitched. Their FIPs are nearly identical, even if they’ve gotten there slightly different ways. Both of them have been stung by the longball, which has outweighed strong BB/K rates. And neither have deserved results as bad as what they’ve gotten.

For Smoltz, there’s an easy narrative – he’s old, he’s washed up, he can’t pitch anymore. For Weaver, there isn’t an easy explanation for his struggles, so the Angels just keep rolling him out there and expect him to get better. But, for both pitchers, our expectations should be similar going forward.

A bad ERA over 40 innings, driven by a high BABIP and HR/FB rate, does not mean that Smoltz is finished any more than it means that Weaver is finished. And, of course, no one thinks that Jered Weaver is washed up.

Tripon Posted: August 21, 2009 at 09:59 PM | 86 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, cardinals, projections, red sox, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:01 PM (#3301376)
You've gotta hand it to Cameron. He sticks to his guns till the bitter end.
   2. Kiko Sakata Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:11 PM (#3301387)
A bad ERA over 40 innings, driven by a high BABIP and HR/FB rate, does not mean that Smoltz is finished any more than it means that Weaver is finished.


I thought somebody around here (I think it was Mike Emeigh, but I may be mis-remembering) argued that high BABIPs by old pitchers actually did mean that they were finished. I think this came up with respect to Kevin Brown - although my recollection is that he retired / wasn't signed coming out of the season where his BABIP spiked so there's no way for us to know how "real" it might have been. Has this been studied / observed in other cases or is that just a theory?
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:15 PM (#3301389)
Everybody repeat after me, BABIP and HR rate only regress to the mean if you have MLB quality stuff. Also, if you groove pitches, no one walks.
   4. greenback needs a ride, not ammo Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:23 PM (#3301394)
Everybody repeat after me, BABIP and HR rate only regress to the mean if you have MLB quality stuff.

They regress to the pitcher's true talent, whatever that is. There's reason to believe that BABIP for anyone who has AA stuff shouldn't be much over .300.
   5. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:23 PM (#3301395)
You've gotta hand it to Cameron. He sticks to his guns till the bitter end.


In case you think the author can get prickly if challenged, the accompanying comments show Nick is quite the Cameron in training.
   6. ?Donde esta Dagoberto Campaneris? Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:36 PM (#3301408)
But, for both pitchers, our expectations should be similar going forward.

Look, there stands Cameron like a stone wall.

I don't spend much time at fangraphs but is Cameron still insisting that Jered Weaver is just an "innings eater." I love that bit.
   7. Who Swished In Your Cornflakes? Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:38 PM (#3301410)
There's very little separating Weaver and Smoltz lately? What?

Weaver is 3-1 this month, having blanked 11 twice and thrown a complete-game shutout his last time out. He did have one '09 Smoltz-esque blowup for that one loss, though, getting torched for 8 runs in 3.1 innings. If Smoltz's last four starts included one blow up and three good-to-great performances like Weaver's, he'd still be in Boston right now.
   8. puck Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:46 PM (#3301429)
There's reason to believe that BABIP for anyone who has AA stuff shouldn't be much over .300.


Poor Glendon Rusch. Interesting link, though.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:48 PM (#3301430)
They regress to the pitcher's true talent, whatever that is. There's reason to believe that BABIP for anyone who has AA stuff shouldn't be much over .300.

I don't think I'd put a lot of stock in statistics put up in games that are that far out of reach.

I have no idea what the typical hitting approach is against non-pitchers. Try to hit the ball over the moon? Just try not to strikeout?
   10. Famous Original Joe C Posted: August 21, 2009 at 11:52 PM (#3301438)
Everybody repeat after me, BABIP and HR rate only regress to the mean if you have MLB quality stuff. Also, if you groove pitches, no one walks.

THIS! I argued with some Cards fans here about Smoltz earlier - maybe he makes an improvement in his command, or catches lightning in a bottle, but if he doesn't, he is not a Major League Starter anymore. He wasn't giving up ground ball singles, he was getting plastered.

I don't spend much time at fangraphs but is Cameron still insisting that Jered Weaver is just an "innings eater." I love that bit.

This is actually dumber than thinking Smoltz might have something left (which he might, but using FIP to say he does? Come on!)

I usually like Mr. Cameron, but this is lazy and silly.
   11. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 12:05 AM (#3301470)
Smoltz says he consulted with a number of people during his layoff and found that his positioning on the rubber was throwing off his mechanics. He's corrected that. Now, this kind of smacks of those "best shape of his life" spring training stories, but there it is just the same. I don't expect good results, but you never know.
   12. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: August 22, 2009 at 12:12 AM (#3301485)
There is no way that Smoltz turns out to be even a slightly acceptable pitcher. None. I would bet a significant BBRef sponsorship on him having a 5.00+ ERA in St. Louis.
   13. Darren Posted: August 22, 2009 at 12:15 AM (#3301487)
I know this is going to sound nutty, but I think the truth may lie somewhere between Fly's "He should be shot in the face with a cannon" and Cameron's "He's better than Cy Young."
   14. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: August 22, 2009 at 12:15 AM (#3301489)
I have never advocated violence towards Mr. Smoltz. I have advocated unemployment.
   15. Darren Posted: August 22, 2009 at 12:20 AM (#3301496)
Metaphors, Fly, metaphors!
   16. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: August 22, 2009 at 12:21 AM (#3301498)
Still, I don't want to be lumped in with certain Braves fans.
   17. Tripon Posted: August 22, 2009 at 12:21 AM (#3301500)
Who wants a neck stab!
   18. ?Donde esta Dagoberto Campaneris? Posted: August 22, 2009 at 12:25 AM (#3301505)
One other reason the reliance on Smotlz's numbers is silly is that he may be very different physically in the next couple of weeks. He's an old-guy coming off a serious injury who only threw about 40 or 50 innings since his return. Some more time to build up strength, and confidence, in that shoulder may make it much different than it was for the Sox.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 12:30 AM (#3301516)
One other reason the reliance on Smotlz's numbers is silly is that he may be very different physically in the next couple of weeks. He's an old-guy coming off a serious injury who only threw about 40 or 50 innings since his return. Some more time to build up strength, and confidence, in that shoulder may make it much different than it was for the Sox.

Sure, he could improve. But, with Boston, he was a bad pitcher. Screw peripherals. They were just teeing off on him.
   20. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: August 22, 2009 at 01:01 AM (#3301573)
Neeeeeeeeccckkkkk sssstttaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabbbb!
   21. Matt Welch Posted: August 22, 2009 at 01:15 AM (#3301609)
54 Ks in 46 innings is a bit more promising than 33/40.
   22. Halofan Posted: August 22, 2009 at 01:29 AM (#3301632)
I'd call Dick Cameron a cherry picker if little boys had cherries.
   23. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 01:53 AM (#3301658)
This kind of fundamentalism is the sort of thing that gives sabermetrics a bad name.
   24. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 02:04 AM (#3301668)
I know I'd rather have Smoltz than Brad Penny.
   25. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 02:05 AM (#3301670)
#21: just what I was thinking.
   26. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 02:07 AM (#3301671)
Smoltz says he consulted with a number of people during his layoff and found that his positioning on the rubber was throwing off his mechanics. He's corrected that. Now, this kind of smacks of those "best shape of his life" spring training stories, but there it is just the same.


"He was tipping his pitches."

How does someone who has been pitching for 30 years get confused about where/how to stand on the rubber?
   27. joker24 Posted: August 22, 2009 at 02:46 AM (#3301714)
And once again, he doesn't have to be "good". He only has to be better than Todd Wellemeyer, which is awful, and he had a higher K%, lower BB% and higher GB% than Wellemeyer pitching in the AL. He's likely less-bad than Wellemeyer going forward and on top of it there's the off-chance (yes, very off) that he figures it out and becomes himself again---good pitchers have awful stretches. There's simply nothing negative anyone can say regarding the Cardinals decision making on this move.
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 02:56 AM (#3301733)
There's simply nothing negative anyone can say regarding the Cardinals decision making on this move.

Nobody's criticizing the Cardinals, we're criticizing Cameron for saying Smoltz is just fine b/c of his peripherals. And, the ridiculous comparison to Jered Weaver.
   29. Tripon Posted: August 22, 2009 at 03:01 AM (#3301739)
The Cards will probably be happy if Smoltz pitches like Jeff Weaver.
   30. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: August 22, 2009 at 03:35 AM (#3301763)
I know I'd rather have Smoltz than Brad Penny.

I wouldn't. Though of course optimally it would be neither.
   31. David Cameron Posted: August 22, 2009 at 03:50 AM (#3301775)
Ahh, Primer, where what you actually say and what you're accused of saying have little in common.

Everybody repeat after me, BABIP and HR rate only regress to the mean if you have MLB quality stuff.

This excuse is run out there every time anyone gets torched with a bunch of base hits and their fan base turns against them. It's been used on at least a dozen guys in the last several years, and they've almost all rebounded. Remember when Jose Contreras was done in 2007?

If Smoltz didn't have "MLB quality stuff", he wouldn't have a better-than-league-average contact rate. It's pretty ridiculous to claim that a guy who throws 91 MPH with an 85 MPH slider and an 86 MPH splitter who gets swinging strikes 20% of the time doesn't have major league quality stuff. I'm sure his location was horrible in Boston, and you all had to watch him get destroyed for six weeks, but the "lacks major league stuff" argument is without merit.

I don't spend much time at fangraphs but is Cameron still insisting that Jered Weaver is just an "innings eater." I love that bit.

In case anyone is wondering, this misquote comes from an article at Baseball Analysts last year, where I stated Weaver was "more of an innings eater than an ace", which is entirely true. Really, if we're going to talk about the Jered Weaver debate, I think it's pretty obvious that my stance on his abilities is closer to reality than Rich's. He's the exact same guy he's always been, just with varying degrees of luck - he's never been a frontline starter, and he never will be. That doesn't mean he sucks - I even put him in my list of the 50 most valuable trade chips in baseball. He's a solid mid-rotation starter. He's just not more than that, and the only people who thought he was were ones who put way too much stock into the value of BABIP-driven ERA.

Weaver is 3-1 this month, having blanked 11 twice and thrown a complete-game shutout his last time out.

I published this article before Weaver's CG shutout.

There is no way that Smoltz turns out to be even a slightly acceptable pitcher. None. I would bet a significant BBRef sponsorship on him having a 5.00+ ERA in St. Louis.

You're on. You tell me who you want if he's 5.00+ (with a mutually acceptable minimum amount of innings), and I'll take... Adrian Beltre. I can't believe I don't own his already.

I know this is going to sound nutty, but I think the truth may lie somewhere between Fly's "He should be shot in the face with a cannon" and Cameron's "He's better than Cy Young."

Can someone help me understand how anything in this article would lead to the idea that I'm pushing "Smoltz is awesome". The most complimentary part of the whole piece calls him "pretty good" and I compared him to a pitcher that I'm famous for not being a big fan of.

They were just teeing off on him.

CC Sabathia got torched his first few starts of his 2008 campaign. Was he a bad pitcher then? Or is two or three starts too small of a sample size? Why is eight the magic number, where we can obviously say that it has predictive value?

This kind of fundamentalism is the sort of thing that gives sabermetrics a bad name.

This kind of ridiculous statement is why so many people regret what BBTF has become.
   32. Justin T's pasta pass was not revoked Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:00 AM (#3301783)
Can someone help me understand how anything in this article would lead to the idea that I'm pushing "Smoltz is awesome". The most complimentary part of the whole piece calls him "pretty good" and I compared him to a pitcher that I'm famous for not being a big fan of.

You're not famous at all.
   33. David Cameron Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:04 AM (#3301786)
Which, of course, was not at all what I meant by that comment. But, hey, let's make this thread about me and not about the merits of a discussion. It is Primer, after all.
   34. Tripon Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:05 AM (#3301788)
So, Cameron, are you saying that Smoltz's stuff hasn't diminished to the point where he can get MLB hitters out?
   35. Srul Itza Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:08 AM (#3301789)
It is Primer, after all.


And always has been, and nothing about the comments on this thread is different from what has been said from the beginning -- and it is and remains one of the best and most popular general baseball discussion sites on the web.

If it offends thee, pluck it out of your browser.
   36. David Cameron Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:10 AM (#3301790)
So, Cameron, are you saying that Smoltz's stuff hasn't diminished to the point where he can get MLB hitters out?

Yep. The fact that this is even a controversial statement is humorous.

If it offends thee, pluck it out of your browser.

[changed my mind about this comment, don't want to get into it with you guys. Dan does a great job here.]
   37. shozzlekhan Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:18 AM (#3301799)
I get so tired of: "Yes, I know about small sample size, but this time it doesn't apply because of reasons a through z." We hear this about 400 times a year about 400 different players. Yawn.
   38. Stately, Plump Buck Mulligan Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:43 AM (#3301810)
[changed my mind about this comment, don't want to get into it with you guys. Dan does a great job here.]


Would you give him an A+? If so, would you say he's the internet equivalent of the Cleveland Indians front office?
   39. Phil Coorey. Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:46 AM (#3301812)
Screw Smoltz, screw Penny and screw Wagner soon as well - whose next?? Roy Oswalt when he is 90??
   40. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:53 AM (#3301817)
You're not famous at all.


What is this, Monkey Island? Shouldn't we save that for a Pirates thread?
   41. cardsfanboy Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:55 AM (#3301819)
wow people are really upset by a guy who's at best projection from the team that acquired him is as a Roogy in the playoffs. The Cardinals honestly don't give a rats behind how he pitches as the fifth starter, if it takes him getting a few starts to make him comfortable in the knowledge that he is no longer a big league starter to accept that he is now a reliever then so be it.

seriously Smoltz isn't going to start one meaningful game for the cardinals, this isn't a debate or a possibility it's a fcking fact.
   42. Halofan Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:59 AM (#3301826)
Can we bring up Smoltz' bible thumping versus Jered Weaver's stonerific worship of the California bachanalia lifestyle to make this thread explode and give Dick Cameron cover?
   43. shozzlekhan Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:03 AM (#3301829)
You know, of all the people acting like dicks in this thread, Dave is not one of them.
   44. cardsfanboy Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:06 AM (#3301830)
So, Cameron, are you saying that Smoltz's stuff hasn't diminished to the point where he can get MLB hitters out?

in the three or so previous threads on this subject it was shown that he can get major league hitters out the first time through the lineup and against righties. Smoltz isn't a major league starter but he should be a solid reliever, the numbers show that.
   45. cardsfanboy Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:06 AM (#3301831)
You know, of all the people acting like dicks in this thread, Dave is not one of them

not in the slightest. I mean post 32 alone is full of dickiness.
   46. jwb Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:19 AM (#3301834)
So do the Red Sox owe Smoltz the remainder of his roster bonuses? The Cardinals? Does he lose out on them? I don't know how bonuses are handled when a player is released.
   47. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:24 AM (#3301835)
This kind of fundamentalism is the sort of thing that gives sabermetrics a bad name.


This kind of ridiculous statement is why so many people regret what BBTF has become.

Since I've been around Primer for a long time -- seven years, by my count -- I doubt I've changed it that radically. Nice for you to have an almost-clever turn of phrase to come back at me with, though! Hope that makes you feel good.

What's happened in that time is that some of us have come to understand that there's nuance to be had in the application and interpretation of statistics. I certainly have. There was a time when I was as affrontish and intolerant of disagreement as you were and continue to be, and when I looked at statistics and statistics only as a useful prism through which a non-professional could view the game. But as I've been around these boards, and watched more baseball, and read more things, it's become clear to me that statistical fundamentalism -- which is what this is; "John Smoltz is teh awesome becuz of de prifrals!" is what it boils down to, analysis by numbers, without subtlety or real thought -- is a recipe for having to eat your words a lot. A whole lot. In the area of DIPS in particular, things are almost invariably somewhat more complex than a guy's BABIP and his K rate, especially over a sample size as small as this one. Ignoring that fact doesn't make you a better analyst; it makes you a person whose analysis lacks relevance.

The fact is that you're the one making ridiculous statements. But that's nothing new for you. You're a fundamentalist, and you brook no disagreement, and when people notice that you're saying dimwitted things, you accuse them of being stupid. I try to avoid wandering into this kind of territory anymore, because, among other things, in the last seven years, I've grown up a little bit. Which seems to be more than you've done. I guess that's okay, but your attitude, both toward scenarios in which there is complexity when you want there to be clarity, and toward the people who see that complexity, damages the progress that some people are trying to make in the mainstream.

Maybe you don't want to tangle with us peons who make BBTF what it has become. If that's the case, then you should avoid having a hissy fit when we notice that you're saying stupid things.
   48. jwb Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:27 AM (#3301837)
Looks like he loses it:

"A Player whose Contract is terminated by a Club during the championship
season under paragraph 7(b)(2) of the Uniform Player’s Contract
for failure to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability shall be
entitled to receive termination pay from the Club in an amount equal
to the unpaid balance of the full salary stipulated in paragraph 2 of his
Contract for that season."
   49. HowardMegdal Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:36 AM (#3301841)
Really interesting piece, Dave, and it brings up a larger point I've wondered about for a long time. Who are the players in recent years who were written off after a bad season or retired (usually at an advanced age) who would have most helped a major league team? In other words, who were the guys who had Ted Williams 1959 seasons, and never got the chance for Ted Williams 1960?

Obviously, it's guessing. Jose Canseco and his .843 OPS come to mind, Dave Kingman 1986 could have likely continued doing what Dave Kingman did... Greg Vaughn? I'm just in a home run hitter frame of mind tonight, I guess, but obviously, pitchers, too. Curious who would get thrown out here.
   50. Tripon Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:39 AM (#3301842)
Obvious one is Barry Bonds. And Gary Sheffield next year.
   51. cardsfanboy Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:48 AM (#3301845)
pete rose '83
Edmonds in 2007
Gaetti multiple times.
just a few thoughts (guess you could go Andres Galarraga)
   52. HowardMegdal Posted: August 22, 2009 at 05:48 AM (#3301846)
Well, sure. I guess I'm looking for guys who were judged to be done, rather than unpalatable to all teams- though clearly, Kingman/Canseco could also fall in this category.
   53. shozzlekhan Posted: August 22, 2009 at 06:09 AM (#3301849)
Mantle retired in 1968 after hitting .237 at 36. Of course it was a brutal year for hitters and his 142 OPS+ was 8th in the AL.

He might have retired anyway though, someone who was alive then might want to weigh in.
   54. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 22, 2009 at 06:09 AM (#3301850)
Looking back historically, it's hard to know who wanted to play another season and who walked away willingly. I do think that pitchers are more likely to keep getting chances until they've been bad for a long time than hitters are.
   55. Tripon Posted: August 22, 2009 at 06:22 AM (#3301855)
Odalis Perez is one. But he shot his own foot on that one.
   56. shozzlekhan Posted: August 22, 2009 at 06:23 AM (#3301856)
Derek Bell would like to submit his name.
   57. Athletic Supporter is USDA certified lean Posted: August 22, 2009 at 09:31 AM (#3301873)
Juan Gonzalez? Though that may have had more to do w/ injuries than him being judged to be a worthless player. 148, 99 in half a season, 122 in half a season, 96 in 33 games with KCR, out of baseball at age 35.
   58. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: August 22, 2009 at 02:49 PM (#3301927)
You're on. You tell me who you want if he's 5.00+ (with a mutually acceptable minimum amount of innings), and I'll take... Adrian Beltre. I can't believe I don't own his already.

I dunno. Someone in the $45-50 range...I guess it depends who's available at the time. But, 5.00 or higher, and I win? Sure. 10 innings?
   59. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 22, 2009 at 03:01 PM (#3301930)
If he faces the Pirates or Reds, I wouldn't make that bet.
   60. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 03:11 PM (#3301932)
If Smoltz didn't have "MLB quality stuff", he wouldn't have a better-than-league-average contact rate. It's pretty ridiculous to claim that a guy who throws 91 MPH with an 85 MPH slider and an 86 MPH splitter who gets swinging strikes 20% of the time doesn't have major league quality stuff. I'm sure his location was horrible in Boston, and you all had to watch him get destroyed for six weeks, but the "lacks major league stuff" argument is without merit.

Dave, that's just lazy. The minors are littered with guys who have 91MPH FBs and 85 MPH sliders/splitters who can't get major league hitters out. Stuff isn't just velocity, you know that. Its velocity, movement, deception, contrast between pitches, etc.

Penny was throwing 95+ last night, and his "stuff" wasn't MLB quality, they were just teeing off on straight hard FBs.

If Smoltz has the pitches you describe and they are all relatively straight, or are moving the same predictable way, that's not going to get MLB hitters out. Now, maybe as a reliever, he can up his velocity, and with guys only seeing him once, he can be good.
   61. Marc Sully's not booin'. He's Youkin'. Posted: August 22, 2009 at 03:34 PM (#3301945)
Cardinal fans just picked up a pretty good pitcher for the league minimum, thanks to the continued overestimation of the usefulness of ERA. The sooner people realize that it’s an obsolete pitching statistic, the better off baseball will be.

Absolutely unbelievable. If only Bill James, Tom Tippett and the rest of the Red Sox baseball ops personnel understood that there was more to pitching than ERA.

Theo said when they DFA'd Smoltz that he just didn't have a weapon against left handed hitters. That much was obvious from personal observation. It's painfully so when you look at the .440/.490/.758 line he was giving up against lefties this season (101 PA's). He was quite good against righties and used appropriately out of the pen, maybe he will be good.

But holy hell is that last line incredible. I live in the South End but I swear I can hear the guys over at 4 Yawkey laughing hysterically as we speak. I can only assume they just read the quote above. They make mistakes - lots of them, but I can assure you they couldn't care any less about ERA when it comes to pitcher evaluation.
   62. salvomania Posted: August 22, 2009 at 03:39 PM (#3301949)
You should make it 11 innings...

With 10, for Cameron to win he actually has to have an ERA of 4.50 or lower....with 11 innings he can win with a 4.91 era...
   63. DJ Endless Grudge Can Use Multiple Slurp Juices Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:36 PM (#3301986)
This excuse is run out there every time anyone gets torched with a bunch of base hits and their fan base turns against them. It's been used on at least a dozen guys in the last several years, and they've almost all rebounded. Remember when Jose Contreras was done in 2007?

If Smoltz didn't have "MLB quality stuff", he wouldn't have a better-than-league-average contact rate. It's pretty ridiculous to claim that a guy who throws 91 MPH with an 85 MPH slider and an 86 MPH splitter who gets swinging strikes 20% of the time doesn't have major league quality stuff. I'm sure his location was horrible in Boston, and you all had to watch him get destroyed for six weeks, but the "lacks major league stuff" argument is without merit.


Sigh.

Look, I'm as gung-ho as anybody about DIPS and regression to the mean and all that.

But the reason all of those things work is because of the underlying assumptions that underpin them. And pitchers for who those assumptions aren't true don't rack up enough innings in the majors to significantly impact the accuracy of our models.

But please, let's not act like those assumptions hold in all cases. It's not like the Red Sox don't know about DIPS (they had Voros on the payroll for a few years) and they still decided to cut ties with him. Has Smoltz lost his stuff? I have no idea! But he's had a major surgery that makes us doubt our previous sample of data, and our sample of data from this year is mostly meaningless. So this becomes a pure scouting question - does Smoltz have MLB stuff?

So we have "his location was horrible in Boston," by your own admission. So the question is, can Smoltz locate his pitches going forward? I don't know. And quite frankly, you don't know, either.
   64. fret Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:50 PM (#3301991)
Players do change their performance level. It takes a while for the stats to catch up to the new reality. The question is whether this is more like Contreras 2007 or, say, Remlinger 2005.

By stats, I mean the basic stats that go into a projection. Once you start looking at FB velocity, swinging strike %, L/R splits, etc. you will always be able to find something that's changed drastically, but the predictive value is unclear.

I hope that in the next few years, this type of debate is revolutionized by better use of the Pitch f/x data.
   65. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2009 at 04:59 PM (#3301995)
So this becomes a pure scouting question - does Smoltz have MLB stuff?

So we have "his location was horrible in Boston," by your own admission. So the question is, can Smoltz locate his pitches going forward? I don't know. And quite frankly, you don't know, either.


Well put.
   66. Jeff K. Posted: August 23, 2009 at 12:28 AM (#3302250)
I live in the South End but I swear I can hear the guys over at 4 Yawkey laughing hysterically as we speak. I can only assume they just read the quote above. They make mistakes - lots of them, but I can assure you they couldn't care any less about ERA when it comes to pitcher evaluation.

Then they're making another mistake. Unless you're very specifically drawing the line right at ERA, such that derivatives (such as they are, the stats coming after ERA in timeline, even if the math doesn't mean that ERA is arrived at in some point when calculating the derivative stat) don't count. There's the need to jump to RA, but other than that, the name of the game and the pitcher's sole job is to prevent runs.

It's a little odd, and I think mostly Voros' fault (joke!), but the advancement of pitching stats has taken a very different tack than hitting stats did. There was obviously some effort to shave away contextual affectors of stat lines for hitters, like park effects, but in the end the arguments were based around actual production and neutralizing that for context. The argument for valuing walks took place in the framework that recognized that walks mean more pitches, and they mean a guy on base, but the most important thing that they share with singles (and why the two were valued very closely) is that it means *not an out*. Not because not making an out is something laudable but because of its effect on run scoring.

It seems to me that with pitching, the move has trailed off down the "not making an out" path without stopping to remember there's something more. FIPS, as applied in arguments, seems to be being focused on judging talent or ability as represented by statistics rather than focusing on valuing production neutral of context. Yes, a guy with a LD% higher than normal is less likely to repeat a strong season than a guy who pitches to norms of both past performance and league comparables. But just as the argument goes that a walk is as good as a hit regardless of style points, or that a strikeout is no worse than another out regardless of negative style, so should people try to remember a little more strongly that the aesthetics and the predictability of the stat line are secondary items, and notably so.
   67. DJ Endless Grudge Can Use Multiple Slurp Juices Posted: August 23, 2009 at 03:16 AM (#3302304)
Jeff, the problem is that the pitcher's traditional statline is not solely a product of his own work.

There are nine players on the defense, all of whom at some point or another are responsible for hit/run prevention. But in traditional pitching stats, we attribute all of those hits/runs to the pitchers (with the exception of the clunky and not very informative distinction of earned and unearned runs).

The idea (and we're not all the way there yet) is to seperate what a pitcher does from what his defense does, so that a pitcher is only credited for his own accomplishments, not what his defense accomplished. This happens to predict future performance better but we should try to do it that way even if it didn't, because otherwise we're not splitting credit properly.
   68. Srul Itza Posted: August 23, 2009 at 03:27 AM (#3302306)
You know, of all the people acting like dicks in this thread, Dave is not one of them.


Ahh, Primer, where what you actually say and what you're accused of saying have little in common.

...

This kind of ridiculous statement is why so many people regret what BBTF has become.

   69. Esoteric Posted: August 23, 2009 at 04:52 AM (#3302330)
As a longtime fan of Dave...yes, he brought a bit of dickishness to this thread (especially the bit that he quickly edited out...glad he erased that before more people saw it), but really only in proportion to the dickishness visited upon him by others before he got here. (In fact, he was arguably more mild given that his snark was general in its focus, whereas he was being attacked specifically.)

Now I sort of understand why he attracts it -- for all his ability as a sabermetric writer, he does occasionally come off as high-handed -- but let's be honest here: most of this is just ###### caviling, quite similar to the way people around here will occasionally cite some incorrect prediction he made five years ago as if it wholly discredits everything else he's ever written (or, more importantly, the process by which he reached his conclusions). That's ridiculous, especially because it requires these folks to distort Dave's argument: he's not claiming that Smoltz is Cy Young, just that he's merely a serviceable pitcher with peripherals similar to Weaver who the Cards have acquired for pennies.

As for the matter at hand, I'm actually mostly agnostic, leaning towards skepticism. I suspect that if Smoltz had been picked up by an AL team he would be in for a harder ride, but that he might just be able to trick his way through in the NL. In that respect, I think CW's #64 makes the most salient counterargument here.

Either way, the dislike for Cameron strikes me as bizarre and misplaced, even if I think he is/was also out of line in dismissing the whole of Primer. You should know, Dave, that many of your most devoted readers (and those of Lookout Landing as well) are also Primates in good standing.
   70. Jeff K. Posted: August 23, 2009 at 05:05 AM (#3302332)
Jeff, the problem is that the pitcher's traditional statline is not solely a product of his own work.

Right, of course.

There are nine players on the defense, all of whom at some point or another are responsible for hit/run prevention.

(snip)

The idea (and we're not all the way there yet) is to seperate what a pitcher does from what his defense does, so that a pitcher is only credited for his own accomplishments, not what his defense accomplished.


Ditto, but this is what I'm talking about, the inconsistency of positions held. Or more to the point, the lack of tying them all together into a narrative description of baseball via numbers that has an internal consistency of thought. Both ends of the spectrum are at least somewhat okay with the notion that hitters can be measured value-wise by numbers that depend on the actions and results of their teammates: to pick an example from each end, RBI and WPA. Some focus was placed on contextual vacuums in order to skim the hitter's performance and hence value off the top of his numbers, but more focus was placed on determining the link between performance and real value. Ditto with fielding, as the move is towards (simultaneously) greater consistency in all forms, be it y-t-y or between systems at least on a broad level.

However, with pitching, the focus is very predominantly stuck on the contextual vacuum. It's to the point that it's not only not productive (and inconsistent, but more on that in a moment), it's downright destructive. As people snipe back and forth about xFIP vs. tRA, nobody is focusing enough on how either one can be reliably, accurately, and consistently turned back into an expression of runs saved/relinquished and the resultant impact on team performance.

We don't see threads ######## about wOBA vs. EQA. On the subject of that internal consistency failure, I note that this is in no small part due to the fact that the ability of advanced hitting metrics to reflect the greater "reality" was deemed 'good enough' for a while as focus slipped to the expression of that "reality" in terms of runs. The lower hanging fruit as it were, until enough is peeled away there that it's time to look back at the first answer/decision and fiddle with it. We're long past that point with pitching metrics, in my opinion.

To note another inconsistency (by the way before I get this thrown back at me, I do realize that what I deem 'inconsistent' trains of thought/action are followed by many people and that the bright light shines when it is lacking), fielding. We grant much by their very premise that the plurality (at least) of plays are ones everyone makes. So much so that a handful of great plays can wildly swing not just a fan's opinion wrt to evaluating his talent, they can have notable impacts on seasonal ZR. Why then do we not grant that same notion and instead worry so much about dividing it out from the pitcher side?
   71. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: August 23, 2009 at 05:08 AM (#3302333)
he does occasionally come off as high-handed

And Babe Ruth occasionally hit home runs.

I hammer Cameron a lot because he's an ####### a lot. If he had any humility, that would be one thing. But he doesn't. He almost invariably takes a tone that implies that people who disagree with him are, at best, slow on the uptake. The fact he's a statistical fundamentalist (except when it behooves him to pretend to be otherwise, as in the case of Yuni Betancourt's defense) makes it worse.

He built Fangraphs. It's a good website. It doesn't make him the smartest person on the planet.
   72. Esoteric Posted: August 23, 2009 at 09:54 PM (#3302808)
So far Dave's looking like a genius.

Smoltz's line as of this second: 5IP, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 9K on 75 pitches. The only reason they won't run him out for another inning is to be cautious. Oh, and he got a hit and scored a run as well.

Of course, it is San Diego.
   73. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 23, 2009 at 10:11 PM (#3302828)
Smoltz's line as of this second: 5IP, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 9K on 75 pitches.

Its AAAA ball!! WAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! His 33:9 K:BB ratio in the AL meant nothing!!!! WAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!
   74. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 23, 2009 at 10:13 PM (#3302833)
No one said Smoltz couldn't get better. The objection was that it was a pure scouting question, i.e. "Is his stuff still good enough", and the stats were not informative one way or the other.
   75. Rally Posted: August 23, 2009 at 10:18 PM (#3302841)
Voxter, David Appelman built fangraphs. Cameron just blogs there.
   76. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: August 23, 2009 at 10:31 PM (#3302850)
Snapper, if I didn't say he couldn't get better, I meant to. I am unconcerned about my bet.
   77. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 23, 2009 at 10:39 PM (#3302854)
Snapper, if I didn't say he couldn't get better, I meant to. I am unconcerned about my bet.


OK, I stand corrected.
   78. 185/456(GGC) Posted: August 23, 2009 at 10:55 PM (#3302864)
Voxter, David Appelman built fangraphs. Cameron just blogs there.


Thanks. That's what I thought. I think he did build USS Mariner. IIRC, he lives somewhere in the Research Triangle near Dial and Emeigh and may be the only ordained sabermetrician. (But he might be a lay minister instead. Oh, and Craig Wright might be a minister as well.) Did he grow up in Seattle?
   79. Srul Itza At Home Posted: August 23, 2009 at 11:20 PM (#3302877)
Its AAAA ball!!


Well, it is. My first comment after the trade was that he would benefit from stepping down a league.

It also doesn't hurt that he was pitching against San Diego in Petco.

Of course, the Cards appear bound and determined to cost Smoltz the win by blowing it in the 9th.
   80. Srul Itza At Home Posted: August 23, 2009 at 11:36 PM (#3302888)
No, they pulled it out.

ADVANTAGE: Cardinals/Cameron

John Smoltz had a brilliant debut with the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out a season-high nine - including seven straight - and holding San Diego to three hits over five scoreless innings in a 5-2 victory Sunday.


Memo to John Smoltz: Continue to avoid the American League.
   81. Kirby Kyle Posted: August 23, 2009 at 11:39 PM (#3302891)
I don't have any dog in this fight. I'm just pleased to enjoy another day with these entries in the boxscores:

W: P. Martinez
W: J. Smoltz
   82. Rally Posted: August 24, 2009 at 12:56 AM (#3302940)
If Smoltz keeps this up the Weaver comparison will be a really good one - Jeff Weaver, who couldn't get an AL batter out for the first half of 2006, but had it figured out by October when the Cardinals needed him.
   83. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 24, 2009 at 01:46 AM (#3302971)
And by 2008, couldn't even get AAA hitters out. And then in 2009 has an ERA under 4 in a sort of significant number of innings for the Dodgers.

I guess AAA is better than the NL, too. Or sample size or something like that. Or Jeff Weaver is really flaky. I mean, the latter is definitely true, at least.
   84. Jeff K. Posted: August 24, 2009 at 02:13 AM (#3302988)
Copy/paste from the Lounge:

Colin - FIP and tRA are linear weights formulas, and thus are expressed in runs (or earned runs, in the case of FIP or DIPS 2.0).

Jeff (you can also call me Awesome-o 38000) -

This is my understanding of tRA. That’s expressed in runs, but not runs saved. tRA is no more able to plug into LWTS than ERA, absent conversion. It looks like pRAA tries to do this, calculating as (lgTRA * xOuts / 27) - xRuns. So a fair point, but the point that I was making and that I still think is valid is that pitching stat advancement has focused too much on the contextual vacuum to the exclusion of other viable improvement frameworks, of which conversion in math designed to provide consistency of thought is one part. At best people are coming up with that pRAA formula, which is just straight 1-1 conversion without any compensation for marginal values. Not that the hitting metrics do this, but it was on the hitting side where the advancements in the conversion thinking happened and were executed. Pitching seems to be stuck navel-gazing dust mite sized fireflies of difference in contextually neutralizing pitcher performance while ignoring other valid avenues.
   85. Gaelan Posted: August 24, 2009 at 03:49 AM (#3303058)
I agree with Esoteric. Cameron and MGL get way more flack then they deserve around here. I can't believe I keep hearing about Robinson Cano. Ridiculous.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
BarrysLazyBoy
for his generous support.

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogHow Government Devastated Minor League Baseball
(2 - 7:48am, Aug 12)
Last: Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc

NewsblogTrevor Bauer Faces Sexual Battery Allegations in New Countersuit
(12 - 6:16am, Aug 12)
Last: Hombre Brotani

NewsblogQuite a Sho: Ohtani ties Ruth, passes Ichiro in same game
(18 - 10:47pm, Aug 11)
Last: Ron J

NewsblogOMNICHATTER for the week of August 8-15, 2022
(198 - 10:25pm, Aug 11)
Last: Itchy Row

NewsblogJason Heyward, despite another year left on contract, won't be back with Chicago Cubs in 2023, Jed Hoyer says
(36 - 10:21pm, Aug 11)
Last: Sweatpants

Newsblog2022 NBA Playoffs thread
(4141 - 10:08pm, Aug 11)
Last: rr would lock Shaq's a$$ up

NewsblogThe Orioles' advantage is hiding in plain sight
(6 - 8:35pm, Aug 11)
Last: donlock

Newsblog2022 MLB Field of Dreams Game: Four things to know with Cubs, Reds set to meet in Iowa
(13 - 7:41pm, Aug 11)
Last: SoSH U at work

NewsblogAs they take the Field of Dreams, where do the Chicago Cubs stand in their latest rebuild?
(2 - 7:18pm, Aug 11)
Last: Brian C

NewsblogVaughn Grissom makes history with HR, steal in debut
(10 - 6:17pm, Aug 11)
Last: the Hugh Jorgan returns

Newsblog‘A League of Their Own’: There’s Still No Crying in Baseball — Just Room for Fixing Old Errors
(62 - 5:35pm, Aug 11)
Last: Cris E

NewsblogSI:Is Nationals Starter Patrick Corbin Having the Worst Pitching Season Ever?
(9 - 5:19pm, Aug 11)
Last: Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network)

NewsblogOT Soccer Thread - European Leages Return
(5 - 5:17pm, Aug 11)
Last: SoSH U at work

NewsblogDetroit Tigers fire general manager Al Avila after seven seasons
(22 - 5:06pm, Aug 11)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogRodolfo Castro loses phone while diving into third in Pirates’ loss
(26 - 4:16pm, Aug 11)
Last: Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful

Page rendered in 0.6002 seconds
48 querie(s) executed