Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's up with Aaron Hill?

Yes, his bat has been great. I'm not talking about offense.

In the past 10 games, Hill committed 3 errors late in the game, all of them 8th inning or later. So far, none have led to a earned run, but the first two were in close games.

For those of you into projecting and need an excuse to think that the Blue Jays' sky is falling, that projects to 22 errors for the season.

It won't happen. In his worst season, Hill only committed 14 errors. I think it's just couple of potholes on the road.

Scott Richmond's Start - and Remembering Steve Roger's Start

Nine and counting.

Sure, Scott Richmond has had nine starts in MLB. And while tonight's game was the deepest he's ever gone, 7 innings, he has also never allowed more than 3 runs in a game. Someone asked Mike Wilner on his blog - a must read, if you can wade through the sea of idiotic comments there - who held the record. Mike did not know but offered Brandon Webb, who Mike correctly recalled had 13 starts without giving up more than 3 runs. (In his first 24 starts, Webb only had one game giving up more than 3 runs and that was a win in which he gave up 4.)

I don't know either, but my candidate is Steve Rogers. My Dad and I used to watch the Wednesday night Expos games back in the 70's and it seemed like this kid Steve Rogers was on the tube a lot. His debut was on Wednesday, July 18, an 8 inning effort, and he pitched on two Wednesdays in August, the 4th and the 18th. What a phenomenal start: in his first 13 games, he pitched at least 8 innings in each, going 9-3 with 7 complete games, three of these shutouts. He didn't give up more than 3 runs in a game until his 19th game, the second game of the 1974 season, a 7-4 complete game victory over the Mets. 11 of those starts were on 3 days rest!

How times have changed. Roy Halladay is a phenom for having 9 CG in 2008, more than many teams, whereas Rogers was in double-digits for CGs in 8 of 10 years from 1974-1983 with a total of 120 CG in that span. I doubt we'll ever see numbers like that again.

So back to Scott Richmond. He's half-way to Steve Roger's streak. Don't get me wrong; I'm not trying to say Richmond's start is anything like Roger's. But slowly, Scott Richmond is starting to show that he belongs in the majors. This season, his WHIP is a respectable 1.286 and his ERA is 2.70. Three of his four starts have been quality starts, and the one that wasn't was the rain-delay game in Cleveland.

It's a great time to be a Jays fan. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Managerial Change - Did Cito, Gino, et al make a difference?

There has been a lot of discussion on Mike Wilner's blog

about whether the Managerial Changes made last June 20 had an impact. This will not answer this to the satisfaction of Mr. Wilner, as his explanation is that the changes are not due to Cito, Gino, et al, but simply due to the fact that the hitters finally got there act together. Fair enough. There is no way to test that assertion statistically, unless you were prepared to look at the hitting situational statistics to see if the batters were being more aggressive and swinging earlier in the count. One thing I can say, which is not in these slides is that bases-on-balls were down by more that one per game under Cito (p-value of 0.0005), without changing the OBP significantly, which suggests to me that the hitters were being more aggressive.


There is a typo in the above slide - it should be p = 0.0499 less than alpha = 5%. When I figure out how to replace the slide, I will do so. (I'm new to this blogging stuff.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Purcey's Short Leash

David Purcey has not been effective since his second-game of the season quality start. In his past 4 starts his BF/O have been 1.714, 1.818, 1.500 and 1.667. His WHIP is 1.792, which is not major league. He needs to learn to trust his stuff and throw strikes and let the defense do their thing. The question is, how much longer will the Jays allow him to try to learn this at the major league level?

The good news is that Jesse Litsch was cleared to pitch by Dr. Andrews and will start throwing off level ground in Florida. I'm guessing he'll be back in about a month. During the broadcast of tonight's game, it was reported that Casey Jansen had pitched well. His line was 4 IP, 2H, 2BB, 3SO and 0 runs. I expect the Jays to give him one more rehab start before calling him up to fill one of the two gaping holes in the rotation (Purcey & Burres).

My speculation on what this means is that Purcey has at most one more start before there is a decision on him, as Jansen will be available for the start after that. After that, Purcey needs to work out his troubles in LV. Also, Purcey's next start is against the Orioles, a team that is third in OBP. They must be licking their chops at the prospect of facing Purcey. The one consolation is that Markakis - a perennial pain in the Jays' collective sides - has an OPS of nearly 1.200 against righties and about 0.700 against lefties

Hopefully, we'll see the following roster moves:
  • May 3, Jansen called up and Purcey sent down
  • Second week of May, Burres sent down and Romero reactivated. (With an off-day May 11, maybe Burres' turn in the rotation can be skipped.)
  • Last week of May, Litsch reactivated. Who knows how they will make room?
The bats were also disturbingly quiet tonight. This was only Bannister's second start, but in those starts he's only allowed 5 hits in 13 IP and has a WHIP of 1.00. This is a guy that went 9-16 with a 5.76 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and allowed a .279 BA last year! I like the Jays' chances tomorrow with Richmond against Meche; with Meche being a rightie, we'll likely see the opening day batting lineup. Wednesday, Tallet might have a hard-luck start against the hottest pitcher in baseball in Zack Greinke. However, he was hot last April as well, (3-0 1.25 ERA) and did not fare well against the Jays last year, (0-1, 2 starts with a 5.25 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP.)

By the way, in Purcey's 5 starts, the Jays have 5, 5, 6, 17 and 2 hits in support of Purcey. The start in Cleveland and tonight were cold nights and Purcey complained about the cold in Cleveland and tonight didn't seem much better. It certainly seemed to cool down the Jays' bats as well. The Royals didn't seem to be bothered by the cold and damp.

After Twenty Games

My Statistical Analysis After 20 Games

Defense - Overall

The Jays have arguably the best defense in the AL, having the highest Defensive Efficiency at 0.719, ahead of Oakland at 0.717, kc at 0.710 and TB at 0.709. (Defensive Efficiency is the percentage of balls in play turned into outs.) The league average is 0.694. This means that if there were no strikeouts and only balls in play, the league average requires 39 outs to get through a game compared to the Jays 37.6 outs

Defense - Fielding

The Jays are at or near the top in almost every fielding category. They lead the league in fielding percentage at 0.990 and with the most chances at 778 and are second to Oakland in chances per game. They have also turned the second most DPs behind Cleveland

Defense - Pitching

Only KC (3.56) and Seattle (3.95) have allowed fewer runs per game than the Jays (4.25), well below the league average (5.10) which is up nearly one-half a run per game from last year's 4.68. The team ERAs are KC: 3.47, SEA: 3.50 Jays: 3.90, well below the league average of 4.83. The Jays are second in WHIP at 1.262 behind, KC at 1.209.

In the first 20 games, the Jays have 10 quality starts, although 12 times the starting pitcher has ended the 6th inning having given up three or fewer runs. The bullpen has been effective 13 of 20 games, with effective meaning they've only allowed half an earned run per inning pitched.

I have a metric that I prefer to measure the effectiveness of a pitching performance, batters faced per out (BF/O), which correlates well with WHIP but factors in aspects of defense (errors and double plays) as well as pitching style, as ground ball pitchers are often able to erase runners with double plays. A WHIP of 1.0 would correspond to a BF/O of 1.333 (=4/3) while the league average WHIP of 1.4 corresponds to a BF/O of 4.4/3 = 1.467. I use a BF/O of 1.4 as the standard of a pitcher being effective, which corresponds to a WHIP of 1.2. BF/O gives me an appreciation of how much trouble a pitcher is facing with runners on base. (BJ Ryan had BF/O if 1.4 or more 38.3% of the times he pitched last season compared to Rivera 15.6%, Nathan 22.1%, Soria 23.8% and Papelbon 31.3%. FRod was somewhat shaky too at 35.5% of the time having a BF/O >1.4.)

On this measure, Roy Halladay and Ricky Romero have been 100% effective, accounting for 8 of the 11 effective starts the Jays have had, with Purcey, Richmond and Tallet having one each. Out of the bullpen, Jason Frasor has been effective 100% of the time and Scott Downs 90%. In the next tier Murphy, Carlson, Camp, League, Tallet and Ryan have been effective between 50% and 67% of the time. Only Bullington, in his two appearances, has yet to be effective.


My preferred metric for offensive effectiveness is to convert runs created (RC) into RC/pa. A league average WHIP of 1.4 implies about 40 at bats per game and with the AL averaging 4.68 runs/game in 2008, it means that the team must average nearly 0.12 runs per at bat to achieve the league average. This metric correlates extremely well with OPS, but has the advantage of measuring offensive production in runs.

On this metric, the Jays have been doing very well. The team leader is Aaron Hill at 0.225, followed by Lind and Millar (0.191), Snider (0.182), Bautista (0.177), Overbay (0.166), Scutaro (0.157), Rolen (0.154), Wells (0.146) and Barajas (0.140). The only regular who is under-performing is Alex Rios, at 0.101, but his numbers have been improving lately. The first base platoon of Overbay and Millar have an RC/pa of 0.175 and the LF platoon of Snider and Bautista have a RC/pa of 0.180, although this is based on all Bautista’s plate appearances, not just when he has played LF. (Note that I have not made any adjustment for position played. The conventional wisdom is that more run production is expected from corner infielders and outfielders whereas most teams will concede some runs production up the middle for stronger defense.)


After a 14-6 start, the Jays have the best record in the AL. They have been hobbled at pitching, and the next 20-30 games could be quite a test. Tallet will need to continue to fill a hole in the rotation effectively and Richmond must continue to battle to succeed despite allowing too many runners. Purcey has great stuff but needs to last longer and allow fewer base runners to be effective in the rotation. One start is not enough to gauge Burres. By the end of May we may have seen some new and returning arms in the rotation. The bullpen is solid, and is improved with Ryan on the DL. The offence should continue to produce a lot of runs, but don’t expect them to continue to continue to average over 6 runs per game, although I think this squad will average over 5.5. Over the next 21 games they have 9 road games including a much-improved KC and an always-tough 5-day west coast swing through LA and Oakland. At home, they host Baltimore (3), Cleveland (2), the Yankees (3) and the White Sox (4). I realistically see them going 13-8 or 12-9 in this stretch.

Season Projection:

I’m a firm believer in “A win in April is as important as a win in September”, although that’s not to minimize Cito’s philosophy of sacrificing a win now for 3 or 4 down the road. It’s great to have 14 wins in the bank after 20 games. I doubt many expect the Jays to maintain a 0.700 pace for the rest of the season. Under Cito in 2008, the Jays were a 0.580 team. The offence is improved with the platoon of Snider and Bautista in left and the return of Hill at 2B. While the pitching has taken some hits from injuries, they’ve managed to get the job done so far with several pitchers expected to return in the next month. I went into the season projecting that the Jays would contend in September, playing at about the same 0.580 pace (94-68) they did last year under Cito. A 0.580 pace the rest of the way projects to a 96-66 record. Even if they slip back to 0.560 the rest of the way, they’ll finish with a 0.580 (94-68) overall.