This article is a proof-of-concept. I’m going to outline a methodology, then use it to write about a few interesting storylines. I’m hoping you will improve on the methodology, and use it to tell better stories.
Everything below follows from the question, “How much of Elvis Andrus’ offensive production is from walks?” His batting average isn’t spectacular and he hits for no power, so why walk him? And yet, he still walks a fair amount. Weird question, perhaps.
My approach is to add up the linear weights values of basic, positive hitting events (BB, HBP, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR), each multiplied by the frequency they occur. Then find the percentage of the total for each event. And there’s one twist — I subtract the value of an out, a la wOBA, except I subtract the out value according to total runs created, not the out value relative to average.
Here’s an example. In his career, Elvis Andrus has 232 walks. Each walk is worth .33 runs above the average offensive event (including outs). The out is worth -.1 runs, so each walk nets out at +.43 runs. 232 times .43 = 100 runs created via walk. Repeating the process for other major events yields 9 runs by HBP, 329 runs by single, 86 by double, 30 by triple, and 21 by HR. That’s 576 total runs, so the 100 runs from walks is 17% of the total package.
Is that high? I don’t know, we need some context. In the 2012 American League, walks were 17% of offensive production. So, Andrus is typical. Where he isn’t typical is in his lack of power. Whereas the 2012 AL has a full 20% of production from home runs and 41% from singles, Andrus is at 4% and 57%, respectively.
How about some other examples? Barry Bonds, in 2004, hit .362/.609/.812. Those 232 walks (Andrus’ career total, by the way), account for 42% of his offensive production. Singles, 19%. And home runs, 29%. While Bonds certainly had a good eye, his walking skill wasn’t necessarily greater than his home run skill. It’s just that pitchers chose to get beaten by his walks rather than mess with his power. (You know this, I just wanted to point out that I’m measuring what happened, not trying to describe skills. Accounting, not prescribing)
Speaking of power, we can split offensive production between hitting for power, hitting for average, and walks/HBPs. For power, I like to subtract a hitter’s production pretending all hits were singles from his total production across all hits. Sort of like isolated power, but with linear weights. For Miguel Cabrera in 2013, his production is 23% due to power. To measure the hit tool, I pretend all hits are singles. Cabrera 2013 is at 60%. And walks/HBPs make up the other 16%. As a comparison, Joey Votto 2013 is at 14% power, 58% hit tool, and 26% BBs.
Finally, because no good saber article is complete without a list, here’s a breakdown of some other 2013 hitting profiles, picking out the highest and lowest rates in each of the three categories. I really enjoy comparisons like Sal Perez and Alex Gordon. They have somewhat similar relative profiles, but Gordon has been way better across each category.
Player Hit Pow Walks Jeff Keppinger 87% 9% 3% Salvador Perez 81% 14% 5% Alex Gordon 72% 18% 10% Adam Dunn 42% 33% 25% Josh Willingham 42% 23% 35% J.P. Arencibia 62% 34% 4% Chris Davis 51% 29% 20% Bryce Harper 51% 27% 21% Dustin Ackley 71% 8% 21% Ben Revere 81% 6% 13% Shin-Soo Choo 48% 20% 32% Ike Davis 54% 16% 29% B.J. Upton 52% 19% 29% Manny Machado 71% 22% 7% Adam Jones 69% 24% 7%
Ok, your turn. How could you improve on this?
Account for additional skills, like avoiding strikeouts, BABIP, baserunning, etc…
Do something with IBBs (I suggest ignoring them or else giving them the average runs/PA value of a hitter overall.)
Get the whole “subtracting the value of an out” thing right — maybe find a number between -.1 (total runs created) and -.3 (runs above average) that represents runs above position-neutral replacement level?
Customize the linear weights for year, league, and park.
Do something similar for pitchers.
Produce a file with values for tons of players and seasons and careers.
Create a spreadsheet tool to plug and chug any values.
Create a useful, intuitive visual way to represent this info (personally, I like the trio of hit tool, walks, power.)
To be honest, I didn’t really figure out any of this methodology. I mixed some ideas from Colin Wyers, Patriot, Matt Klaassen, and Lee Panas. They get any credit this idea deserves.
If you don’t care about my fantasy team or discussing Scoresheet strategy, then don’t read this.
When I managed Beyond the Box Score, I weasled my way into a media Scoresheet league. There’s been a bit of turnover, but I know a lot of the guys in the league via twitter and there aren’t any idiots — something that’s not easy to do with 24 teams.
Scoresheet is a “live” simulation fantasy format — kind of like Strat-o-Matic, but using in-season weekly stats. It’s real baseball: OBP matters more than AVG. Defense matters. Saves don’t matter. It’s not perfect, but it’s my favorite format. (I hate the keeper structure, though.*)
In previous years, I kept only 3-4 players. The limit is 10, but for every player below 10 kept, you get an extra draft pick at the front of the draft. This year, however, I kept the full ten. I’m not sure that was smart, but I did:
I love the first three guys, especially Zobrist, who’s going to be my starting shortstop. Span has a sweet D rating. But then I’m less excited— Werth’s platoon rating hurts him against righties, which isn’t a great fit for these leagues. Ellis, as a catcher, isn’t a full-timer, and also hits better against lefties — not a great fit considering I kept Travis D’Arnauld with a minor league slot. And the pitchers, well, I like them more than most, but they certainly aren’t workhorses or aces.
Befire my first draft pick, I made two trades. First, I dealt Span and a late pick for Kevin Youkilis and an end pick. I needed a big bat at 1B or DH, and I love him in Yankee Stadium. Then I swapped McCarthy and a later pick for Carlos Beltran and two end picks. Boom, offense greatly improved. I really like McCarthy’s skills, but don’t trust his ability to rack up innings and don’t love the change in parks (Scoresheet adjusts for league, but not park.) I consider this trade a win. The Span for Youkilis deal was more even, but I pulled the trigger because there were more decent CFs remaining than big bats.
Headed into my first pick, my open positions were 2B/SS, CF, starting pitching, and an entire bullpen. Plus depth — Scoresheet’s replacement level is like a .200 hitter/8.00 ERA pitcher, so having backup PAs is critical.
I quickly nabbed Colby Rasmus, who should be only a small downgrade from Span vs righties (DeAza and Pagan were my two other options and both were picked before I had a chance at them.) Then I made the one pick I really regret: Jeff Niemann. I’ve always had a crush on him, but didn’t realize his velocity was down so much. 12th round (2nd round after keepers) was too early for him, and I didn’t have a pick in the next two rounds from my previous trades. Oh well.
In the 15th I grabbed Travis Hafner for offensive depth and Scott Feldman for the rotation. I really wanted a 2B/SS here, but couldn’t pull the trigger. Daniel Murphy, Jeff Keppinger, Omar Infante, Maicer Izturis, Gordon Beckham, and Chris Nelson were all queued up, but went before my pick. I probably should have taken Zach Cozart, but I still like the Hafner/Feldman picks.
I got my 2B in the 16th round: Kelly Johnson. Don’t love him, but the rest of the options were even worse. He has no value vs lefties, but that makes his production vs righties better, a nice tradeoff. Definitely a position I’ll be looking to upgrade via trade.
The 17th round brought Chris Heisey as CF platoon-mate for Rasmus and general OF depth, plus Alex Rodriguez. ARod should be useful for the playoffs, either on my team or as trade bait.
My two round 18 picks are crapshoots: Faux-sto Carmona and Scott Kazmir. The first is completely motivated by the Rays track record with Peralta/Farnsworth/Rodey and their lack of a track record signing starting pitcher free agents. Kazmir’s velocity is back, although control is also a big issue for him. If one turns into a 3rd/4th starter, I’ll call this round a win.
Rounds 19-21 bought on Mike Aviles (platoon mate for Johnson), Kyle Crick (young pitching prospect who will be trade bait), and Jason Bay (a big bat flier). Oh, and I nabbed my first relief arm in Casey Janssen.
I hate relievers. Well, I hate valuing any specific reliever. A deep bullpen is important in Scoresheet, especially with my iffy rotation. I’d rather have a ton of 3.50 ERA relievers pitch innings 6-9 than 3.75-4.25 ERA starters. I made a lot of trades where I acquired late-round picks (I have 8 of the last 23 picks in the draft). These will be bullpen arms. But it’s nice to have a couple high-end relievers, too, and if healthy, Janssen would have gone higher.
That’s everyone so far. I need some depth and a lot of bullpen arms, but I also have some picks to spare on prospects and breakout candidates. I’m very happy with my lineup — while lacking a stud hitter, it has both OBP and power, with good depth and lots of flexibility. My defense is no worse than average. The starting rotation is meh, but not bad for lacking an ace. I have the pieces to trade for a pitcher mid-season, if I’m in the hunt.
One lesson I’ve learned is that I jump at underrated older players (call me Scoresheet’s Brian Sabean.) While a solid strategy for current-season succss, it helps explain why I lack superstar keepers. Old guys don’t become stars. You have to take fliers on younger guys for that.
Definitely interested in feedback, bring it on.
* Or league punishes the value of young players compared to veterans. You can keep prospects for next to free until they lose rookie status, but then their cost is the same as a veteran: one of your 10 keeper spots. Most youngsters aren’t stars immediately. It’s worth keeping a young Matt Wieters with a $1M pre-free agent contract, but not a $15M one, as an analogy. And since there’s a soft cap, it’s only worth keeping a player if they provide value beyond who you could nab in the draft. Except for my top three guys, I would be ok throwing my keepers back and choosing from the available pool. Therefore, acquiring studs (often through rip-off 3 for 1 deals) is a priority. I’d rather have a contract system, or a hard keeper limit (so that having more mediocre keepers has value). Of course, I don’t dislike the current system enough to leave the league.
[I wrote this for me, but published it. And it’s not about baseball. You’ve been warned.]
I just finished the fourteenth and last book in the Wheel of Time epic fantasy series. I started the first book about 12 years ago, so it’s been a long, sometimes frustrating journey. (When you wait three years for the next book to come out and *nothing happens*, that’s frustrating.) It’s not a series for everyone, and I actually enjoyed listening to the books during my commute more than reading them (there’s too much descriptive prose for my tastes, so I’d often skip ahead when actually reading.)
Anyways, this is the first time I can remember getting emotional when finishing a book series. It’s happened many times for a tv series, but never books.
* Let’s Pozterisk my most emotional tv series endings (not the best endings, but the ones that most hit home that the series was over):
Finality reminds me a lot of graduating high school, breaking up with a long-term girlfriend, moving cities/jobs, etc. While the next step might be exciting, it’s a complete unknown, and you’re forced to give up the status quo. It’s the end. You have to start over. What was won’t be any more. There’s probably a good Shakespeare quote to insert here about fleeting moments.
The Wheel of Time has its issues, but I enjoy epic plots, and the way this epic reduced down to the fates of a few individual characters at the end (the epilogue, to be exactly) really left an impression. One most of all.
In the epilogue, it’s revealed that Rand (the main protagonist) switched bodies with one of the bad guys. Everyone except about five people think he’s dead. He no longer has his magical abilities. He no longer has an obligation to save humanity. He’s starting fresh, but coming off a pretty stressful three (?) year period where he conquered countries, risked his life daily, lost his hand, dealt with two un-heal-able super-wounds, killed really powerful baddies, plotted to kill Evil itself, and eventually came to understand everything about the nature of the universe itself.
I mean, he’s probably relieved, but what a downer — "it’s about the journey, not the destination" and all that. What do you do next? How do you find meaning in anything else? How could anything else seem important?
Back in the real world, I wonder if I’ll ever get to a point in my life where my best work and my most challenging activities are behind me. Can you adjust? Can you pretend your current state isn’t a letdown? Can you learn to enjoy the destination? Of course, to pull from tWoT, maybe it’s not the end but just an end. There are always more beginnings.
On a more right-now time scale, I suppose it’s time to find a new book series.
/meandering thoughts, catharsis achieved
I’m a decent fantasy player, but not great. I think I’m decent at Scoresheet, too, but in the BP Kings league I have a problem: I don’t have any stars and I don’t know how to get them.
Ben Zobrist is my best player, and Alex Gordon and Pablo Sandoval are solid All-Star caliber support, but none are an Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, or Miguel Cabrera. Kings keeper rules allow for a soft 10, meaning if you keep fewer than 10, you’ll get an additional draft pick up front. Mediocre keepers aren’t necessarily better than those bonus picks, so a premium is placed on stars. Trading 3 3-WAR players for a 6-WAR player is a big win long-term.
I see a few ways to get stars, none of which are routes I do or want to take.
In some respects, finding stars is a lot like finding a stud rotation. It’s both necessary and a bad gamble. Other strategies, such as focusing on position players, have a higher expected value, but it’s hard to reach the pinnacle of the league without hitting that flush on the river. Only those willing to take the risk see the highest rewards. Maybe it’s just my personality that I would rather have an 85-90 win team and bow out in the playoffs than suffer through some bad years and win it all eventually.
Or maybe I’m missing something. This is probably it, and I’ll take any and all advice you have for acquiring star players in leagues where they are extra valuable. Bring it on. And thanks.
Attention stats/analytics-oriented community: I’m seeking your help for a project…
If you were to want more “mainstream” fans/media to be more aware of/better understand advanced metrics, can you rattle off 3-5 you think are most important. You can tweet them to me or email me at email@example.com …. Your help would be much appreciated. Thanks.
Great question from Evan Grant. I’m going to answer it, even if the tweet was posted through Sulia.
Actually, I’m going to cheat and change the question a bit. Instead of talking about 5 metrics, I’m going to talk about 5 concepts. There are often many stats that measure the same thing, and their usage is dictated by nuance. But since we’re not at the level of nuance, let’s focus on the big picture. My top 5 important “saber” concepts:
The numbers aren’t always right, and they don’t need or claim to be. It’s the concepts behind them that are important, and these concepts are pretty solid. In fact, I’d be happy to read articles that account for these concepts but that don’t use any specific stats or numbers.
Thanks for reading. Always happy to continue the discussion or answer more questions.
Update: some good suggestions for additional concepts via Twitter friends:
I launched a poll via Twitter last night, asking “Which of these players do you think are using PEDs?” 154 people have already responded and here are those results:
50% David Ortiz
46% Ryan Braun
39% Edwin Encarnacion
36% Albert Pujols
35% Jose Bautista
33% AJ Pierzinski
32% Miguel Cabrera
28% Josh Hamilton
26% Yoenis Cespedes
25% Michael Morse
24% Yadier Molina
24% Adrian Beltre
23% Ryan Howard
22% Carlos Beltran
21% Derek Jeter
18% Josh Reddick
18% Mark Trumbo
17% Matt Kemp
17% Joey Votto
16% Adam Dunn
15% Jamey Carroll
15% Jim Thome
15% Bryce Harper
14% David Wright
14% Alex Gordon
14% Johnny Cueto
14% Aroldis Chapman
13% Gio Gonzalez
13% Dustin Pedroia
12% Mike Trout
12% Justin Verlander
12% Andrew McCutchen
12% Jeff Samardzija
11% Mariano Rivera
11% Felix Hernandez
10% Dustin Ackley
10% Cliff Lee
10% Craig Kimbrel
9% Stephen Strasburg
8% Michael Bourn
8% RA Dickey
I wouldn’t read into these numbers too much — non-representative snowball sample, zero screening process, yada yada — although the relative rankings are interesting. Feel free to share your thoughts on Twitter (@Sky_Kalkman) or suggest names to ask in a second survey.
FWIW, 16% of respondents selected nobody, 19% selected a single player, 31% selected between 2 and 5 players, 23% were between 6 and 15 players, 7% were between 16 and 30 players, and 5% selected at least 38 players. (There are 41 players included.)
B-level pitching prospects are worth almost half as much as top-level pitching prospects. This is also the level where pitching prospects are actually better bets than their hitting counterparts. As teams over-value highly rated young pitchers, a better option is to favor quantity over quality. Spaghetti-against-the-wall and all…
I’ve been making a lot of ice cream recently, spurred on by acquisition of a second freezing cannister. I’m no expert, but I do have some advice for new ice cream chefs. These are those tips.
This post has the goal of explaining a comment I’ve made on Twitter a few times: good scouting writing is a lot like good role-playing-game design. Be forewarned, I’m not a scout and the last RPG I played was probably Final Fantasy III. But as someone who enjoys reading about both as entertainment, let me see if I can explain the parallels.
First, by “scouting”, I actually mean a couple things:
That last phrase is probably the most important — at its core, we’re trying to understand how baseball works. I’m not foolish enough to think we can ever fully answer that question or that we’re close. But to make any claims about players, we have to claim some level of knowledge about baseball and talk about players within that framework.
Now, the RPGs. Let me repeat that phrase again: a full understanding of how baseball works. You could substitute a RPG phrase instead: a full understanding of how a RPG’s universe works. Kill an enemy, get 3 coins. Kill a boss, get a rare item. Collect 1,000 experience points, level up. Pair this crystal with that one, cast a special spell. Use a fire potion on a water monster, deal extra damage. Use a special attack, sit out the next round of battle.
It’s one thing to understand all the little rules of a RPG, but they also have to make sense as a whole. Why do enemies carry coins? Why does a new level bring more stats? Why do crystals exist in this world and why does combining them do new things. Why does the special attack take more time? Some of those answers are mechanical and follow from other mechanisms. Some are narrative and follow from the theme and story of the game. Both can be explanatory and both can be entertaining. Especially in board games, there’s enjoyment in the inter-workings of the rules. And a good story can explain away some awkward rules.
In many ways we’re talking about a model — a model of how a RPG works and a model of how baseball works.
A scout on twitter once told me a story about watching Miguel Cabrera bat in A-ball. He didn’t get a hit and his season line was putrid. Yet it was obvious to this scout (and everyone else, apparently) that while Cabrera currently wasn’t any good, he was the best hitter in that league and had great things ahead of him. That’s a sensational lede, now tell me the rest of the story. Tell me about how his swing is fast and compact, but he can’t recognize a breaking ball worth crap. Tell me how someone learns to recognize a curve ball and why Cabrera will certainly pick up this skill. Tell me how his approach at the plate is poor, what a good approach looks like, and how someone learns to change their approach — is it all at once or are their stages of development? Explain why he has most of the tools to drive balls to all fields, but he needs a slight tweak of his mechanics in order to use those tools effectively. (I could go on for a while here.)
Like RPGs, there are a couple levels to good scouting (actually, “good communication of scouting” might be more accurate.) First, explain the individual mechanics better. Two crystals = special spell; doing X let’s you hit a curve ball better because Y. Second, connect the individual mechanics in a meaningful way. This involves pure storytelling, but also requires the individual mechanics to be discussed in a common way with hooks that can be connected. (There are a lot of paradigm issues at play — many ways to discuss the same thing. Picking a consistent perspective is important.) You get the boomerang from the first boss because he’s the bully who stole it in the first place; a slider combines well with a four-seamer because it moves in two different planes, and hitters don’t deal well with multiple plane changes because X, Y and Z. Everything is connected to everything else if you’re willing to take the time to tell a long story.
So before talking about any individual player, have a full world-view of baseball in place. Know how things interconnect, how one things affects another. And when talking about something specific, relate it to other things that connect to it in a variety of other directions. This adds context to help understanding, adds reasons-to-believe, and makes the whole thing more entertaining. Baseball might not be as cut-and-dried as a RPG (nothing is), but by treating it as such, I think scouting writing can be more informative and more entertaining.