Cabrera Finally Looks Good, O’s 8-6
Posted by Mike on April 17, 2006
Daniel Cabrera went 7 strong innings for the win against the Angels tonight. He had 7 K's, 1 BB, and allowed 1 run (0 earned). He threw 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes. It's good to finally see him looking like he did in the WBC again.
According to Baseball Prospectus, here is what Leo Mazzone had to say after Cabrera's last start:
Well, I tell you what. I’ve got all that I can handle right here. I mean, (Wednesday night) we had a ball game where we had a young kid named Daniel Cabrera, and listen to this line score: Five innings, three hits, one run, nine walks and 10 strikeouts and 110 pitches.
Translation: Lots of talent, lots of work ahead.
- Newhan Breaks Fibula
David Newhan broke his right fibula after stealing second base in the 1st inning. It's a tough break (rimshot) because he was just starting to get consistent playing time.
The Orioles already have 12 pitchers on the active roster, so Newhan is likely to be replaced by a position player. It's anyone's guess as to who might get the call, but let's explore a few of the options:
Val Majewski* (AAA)- Struggling too much in AAA to warrant decreased PT
Keith Reed (AAA)- Killing the ball in Ottawa (although 0 BB in 32 AB)
Andy Tracy (AAA)- Hitting ball well (.556 SLG)
Eddy Garabito (AAA)- Versatile defensively, ML experience
Ed Rogers (AAA)- Versatile defensively, struggling with bat (I hardly noticed…)
Fernando Tatis (AAA)- 1.000+ OPS right now, ML experience
Eli Whiteside* (AAA)- Would give O's 3rd C, struggling with bat
Alejandro Freire (AAA)- If he's not hitting, what is he good for? And he's not hitting…
Jeff Fiorentino* (AA)- Got a look last year, which is actually even more ridiculous than if he got a look this year.
Raul Chavez (AA)- I'm guessing this is why he's in Bowie and not Ottawa…
*on 40-man roster
Who do you guys think gets the call? I'll guess Chavez, but few of these options would surprise me.
- New Blog on Orioles Hangout
I finally took a look at the new blog on Orioles Hangout, Tony's Take. The latest entry is called 'The Book Everyone Should Read' and refers to Charles Euchners' The Last Nine Innings: Inside the Real Game Fans Never See. If you peruse the entry, the author is basically naming the reasons he likes this book. I have not read the book, but it certainly sounds interesting. Unfortunately, in an attempt to make his arguments for the book, the author of the blog says the following:
If you are pure stat head, you should read this book. He goes into great detail as to why the game is played and managed by human beings and not computers. And the fact he brought up Tom Tippett's detailed research that crushed the ridiculous notion by Voros McCracken that pitchers can't control what happens to a batted ball, but can only control whether it's hit or not, makes it even sweeter. Not to get too far off the book, but I still don't get how anyone who follows baseball on a regular basis believed that report. Anyone who watches pitchers like Mariano Rivera saw off batters continually can visually see that his very success is determined by the movement of his cutter and the batter's inability to get good wood on it, thus creating a lot of poorly hit balls. Trying to say that a pitcher has no effect over how hard a batter hits a ball was ridiculous and one of the very reasons that you don't take everything these guys write as gospel, even if they do a lot of great statistical evaluations.
Managed by humans and not computers? What the hell does that mean? This has already gotten off on the wrong foot. Then he implies that Tom Tippett crushes the ridiculous notion by Voros McCracken that pitchers can't control what happens to a batted ball. This is a rash misrepresentation of the disagreement between the two for a variety of reasons; not the least of which is that, in Tom Tippett's words:
In an article published on Baseball Primer last year, McCracken softened his original conclusion a little, saying that there are small differences among pitchers in their ability to prevent hits on balls in play, and those differences are "statistically significant if generally not very relevant." Except for the regulars on Baseball Primer, I don't think many people in the baseball research community are aware of this update to McCracken's thinking.
That was four years ago that McCracken altered his original conclusion and it greatly alters the degree of difference between his and Tippett's findings. By now, most people that take statistical analysis seriously are aware of McCracken's adjusted conclusions. McCraken also conceded that knuckleballers are a special case- something that, if accounted for in Tippett's research, would also have minimized the differences in their findings. Nevertheless, here are the most relevant of Tippett's findings, in his own words:
2. Their influence over in-play hit rates is weaker than their influence over walk and strikeout rates. The most successful pitchers in history have saved only a few hits per season on balls in play, when compared with the league or team average. That seems less impressive than it really is, because the league average is such a high standard. Compared to a replacement-level pitcher, the savings are much greater.
3. The low correlation coefficients for in-play batting average suggest that there's a lot more room for random variation in these outcomes than in the defense-independent outcomes. I believe this follows quite naturally from the physics of the game. When a round bat meets a round ball at upwards of 90 miles per hour, and when that ball has laces and some sort of spin, miniscule differences in the nature of that impact can make the difference between a hit and an out. In other words, there's quite a bit of luck involved.
5. The fact that there's room for random variation doesn't necessarily mean a pitcher doesn't have any influence over the outcomes. It just means that his year-to-year performances can vary randomly around value other than zero, a value that reflects his skills.
6. Unusually good or bad in-play hit rates aren't likely to be repeated the next year. This has significant implications for projections of future performance.
The few conclusions that I didn't reproduce here can be found here. I encourage you to read it for yourself, lest I be accused of misrepresenting the argument myself.
Basically, Tippett is saying that a pitcher does have some impact on whether a ball in play goes for a hit or not but that it is subject to a high degree of fluctuation and extreme examples usually regress to the mean. For example, Bruce Chen had a .262 BABIP last year, which is part of the reason that no one outside of Baltimore expects him to repeat his 3.83 ERA. No one is saying that Chen's ability to mix speeds has no effect on his low BABIP, just that his true ability to control hits in play is not that extreme (league average BABIP is usually in the high .290's). If his true ability (ie if we had a large enough sample) were to hold opponents to a .285 BABIP (which would be well above-average), then he would be just as likely to post a .320 BABIP this year as he would be to repeat what he did last year. Conclusions # 3, 5, and 6 confirm this notion. Unfortunately, it's not only difficult to determine a pitcher's true ability to control BABIP over the small sample of one career, its implications are limited by both the small degree of difference and the statistical noise that often clouds it.
McCracken, on the other hand, has said that these differences are statistically significant if not generally relevant. By relevant, McCracken is suggesting that setting a pitcher's BABIP to league average is more useful than using his BABIP in any given year as a means of predicting future outcomes. With Tippett conceding the large degree of luck involved, I fail to see where this is contradictory to the conclusions that he came to.
Just for good measure, let's look at the specific example that Tony's Take refers to, Mariano Rivera. According to his PECOTA player card, Rivera's ability to control BABIP is somewhere near the 90th percentile of all major leaguers. Yet, his BABIP's for 2003-2005 are .299, .282, .239. Certainly that seems well above average, in 2005 at least. The problem is that the BABIPs fluctuate wildly around what seems to be his true ability, between .239 and .299. By no means, however, does this mean that he is a safe bet to post an above-average BABIP in any given year. So what would be more generally relevant- using an extreme single season example of .239 or setting it to league average? At this point, I think the answer is clear. Tippett even says it himself in conclusion #6.
Misrepresentations of McCracken aside, I should mention that Tony's Take has some legitimately useful and interesting information. I particularly enjoyed his interview with former prospect Chris Smith that highlights some of the past failings of Orioles player development.
- OTT Finally Addresses the Steroid Issue
I know you guys have all been waiting for the Orioles Think Tank to finally weigh in on the steroids issue. After all, someone has to talk about it. The reason I've been reluctant to in the past is that I largely see it as a farce. Never have my personal feelings been more eloquently stated than in this article by BP's Joe Sheehan. Here is an excerpt:
Bonds’ grand-jury testimony was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, an event which became the impetus for an investigation into his life that produced a book, Game of Shadows, a book that now becomes the impetus for a perjury investigation, the news of which also gets leaked.
Maybe people don’t like Bonds’ recent bout of self-pity, but go back and read that sentence again. Think about how that cycle might make you feel if you were in the middle of it. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, and just because you’re unpopular doesn’t mean you have to surrender all your rights as a citizen. There have still been no repercussions for the leaking of that testimony.
I'm a big believer in Barry Bonds' ability to be a jerk. I also accept that he almost definitely used steroids knowingly. That said, I've always found myself defending the guy.
The reasons? For one, the media has completely turned a blind eye towards their past failures to cover this issue- particularly considering all the access they are granted. Now that it's out of the bag, everyone wants to act like Bonds is some kind of monster.
Also, I'm one of the few people I know that believes that many have been topo quick to jump all over Bonds for playing the race card. In many cases, I have no doubt that he is overreacting. In others, I'm not so sure. Consider the fact that there is arguably as much evidence that Lance Armstrong has done steroids as there is against Bonds. Despite the fact that it hasn't been covered in the U.S. nearly as much as the round-the-clock, Pedro-Gomez-watching nature of Bonds' saga, most sports fans are at least aware of the allegations. Yet, one of these men is a national hero while the other is public enemy #1. I do not believe this is entirely a race issue, but I can see how a rational person could come to that conclusion.