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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Many players forever known for not stepping up to the plate

It may surprise you to know that the Stat Guy isn't really a statistician who writes but is more like a writer who is fascinated by statistics.

The curiosity is not so much about numbers as it is a curiosity about people and history. Yes, there is analysis and projection, but what historian doesn't try to use knowledge from the past to gain insight on the future?

It's hard to find a group of people who are more defined by numbers than baseball players. The statistical record of ballplayers dates to a time before T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway or Henry Miller, which, in the literary sense, means that it traces back before the birth of modernity.

This week, we are reminded of the historical richness of the baseball statistical record. Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the only big-league appearance of Archie "Moonlight" Graham.

Immortalized in the book Field of Dreams and the subsequent movie version, Graham played one inning for the Giants on June 29, 1905, in right field. In the last half of the ninth inning, he was left standing in the on-deck circle when the game ended. He was then sent back to the minors and never played another big-league game.

In the Baseball Encyclopedia, under the AB column (for at-bats), there will forever be a zero for Moonlight Graham.

The story sets the curious mind in motion. How many Moonlight Grahams have there been?

A great tool for answering these sort of questions is Lee Sinin's Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia. If there's a list you want to generate, this is your program. In this case, we’re looking for a list of non-pitchers, since 1900, who played at least one career game but, like the erstwhile Graham, did not have an at-bat.

It seems that beyond the corn rows, behind the field of dreams, Doc Graham is not so lonesome - there have been 96 such players.

At the top of the list are three players who make Graham's torment look like a minor irritation.

Jack Cassini was a speedy, once-promising middle infielder whose big-league hopes were largely derailed by a four-year stint in the military during World War II. He did, however, make it to Pittsburgh in 1949 at the age of 29. His career line: eight games, zero at-bats, three runs scored.

Cassini spent more than 40 years in professional baseball as a player, manager and coach. But he never batted in the big leagues.

Eddie Phillips could appreciate Cassini's plight. He played nine games for the Cardinals in 1953 - all as a pinch runner. He scored four runs but never played in the majors again and never got to pick up the bat.

None compare in this category to Herb Washington.

Baseball aficionados probably remember Washington. He was a world-class sprinter who once held the record in the indoor 50-yard dash. In 1974, colorful Athletics owner Charles O. Finley signed Washington to a contract to be the ultimate specialist - full-time pinch runner.

"I estimate Washington will be good for 10 wins," Finley told The Associated Press at the time.

This was in the pre-Bill James era - there was no Stat Guy to point out the folly of such analysis. Washington played in 105 games over two seasons for the Athletics. He never played the field and never batted.

Washington did steal 31 bases (out of 48 attempts) and score 33 runs. But his most memorable moment was a mistake. He was picked off first base by the Dodgers' Mike Marshall in the ninth inning of a game in the 1974 World Series - with the Athletics trailing by a run.

The beauty of baseball statistics is that they mark players forever. These three players have probably never met. They probably aren't aware that they are the career leaders in any category. They are. Most games played, zero at-bats: Herb Washington, Eddie Phillips and Jack Cassini.

In a sense, they will be forever linked. Like Moonlight Graham, they will always be remembered, whether or not they got to bat.

Friday, June 24, 2005

How mighty the pen can be

The White Sox have charged to the top of the heap in the AL Central largely because of outstanding success in the large number of one-run games that they've played.

Going into today's games, the White Sox lead the AL Central by 9 1/2 games with a 47-22. That's the best record in baseball and they are the only team in baseball with a winning percentage above .630 - they're at .690. At their current pace, the White Sox would win 112 games this season.

The White Sox have played 28 one-run games this season - most on the major leagues. They've won 20 of those games.

Let's think about that for a moment. If winning one-run games was strictly a matter of luck and, on a long enough timeline, all teams finished .500 in that category, the White Sox should be 43-28 with a 3 1/2 lead over Minnesota. If they were really unlucky, they could be 8-20 in one-run encounters. That would put them at 37-34, just ahead of Detroit for third place.

Also, if it was strictly a matter of luck, you'd expect the White Sox to come back to the pack in close games and, thus, in the division race. That leaves us with our question of the week: Is performance in one-run games strictly a matter of luck?

Here in Kansas City, it certainly seems like there is a lot more in play than luck. According to Rany Jazeryli of Baseball Prospectus and The Topeka Capital-Journal, over a ten-year span beginning in 1996 and ending with Tony Pena's departure on May 22, the Royals had 145-236 record in one-run games. That is the worst such performance in major-league history for a team over a ten-year span.

Is that simply an unprecedented run of bad luck? Did a pack of rabid black cats scurry past the Royals dugout sometime in the Bob Boone era? Did Bip Roberts break a mirror in the locker room? Just what is going on around here?

Bad luck does play a part, but in Kansas City, we like to blame our managers. Indeed, both Tony Muser and Tony Pena posted atrocious records in one-run games. Even if you temper the performance by employing Bill James' formula which calculates expected one-run record based on overall run differential, the picture is pretty darn bleak.

Another possible explanation for this persistent drudgery is bad relief pitching. Indeed, when approaching the problem from this angle, there seems to be something to the idea - and not just because the Royals have had consistently poor bullpens during the last decade.

This year's White Sox bullpen is sixth in the big-leagues in bullpen ERA. They are second in saves (27), first in save opportunities (36) and sixth in holds (33). These numbers are very telling.

To try and get a grasp on the relationship between bullpen performance and record in one-run games, Stat Guy gathered the data from the last four seasons (2001-2004) and looked at the correlation of each category to that of one-run success. The categories included standard measures such as ERA and a couple of derivative metrics which we'll look at.

Surprisingly, there didn't seem to be much, if any, correlation between strong performance in component statistics (hits, walks, strikeouts, et al) and common derivatives (ERA, WHIP, fielding-independent ERA). Stat Guy looked at data from Stats, Inc., which broke down relievers' statistics according to situations when pitching with a lead, when behind and when the game is tied. Again, there wasn't any correlation to performance in one-run games.

Some positive correlations did begin to appear when looking at things like save opportunities and save percentage. In fact, the highest correlation of any category was in a derivative which we'll call HS% (Holds-Saves Percentage) which is simply holds plus saves divided by holds plus saves plus blown saves.

The correlation between HS% and one-run winning percentage is very good. It's not perfect - there is plenty of room for managerial foibles and good, old-fashioned luck. But the conclusion is clear: teams with strong bullpens tend to do well in one-run games.

You might say this only makes sense because if a team wins a lot of close game they are almost by definition going convert a lot of hold and save situations. However, HS% is a rate stat and should serve to isolate opportunity. Also, it should be noted that HS% works better than simple save percentage. There was almost a three times greater correlation between HS% and one-run percentage and save percentage. You can't just look at the closers - the set-up men are almost as valuable.

Still up for question is whether success in HS% can be perpetuated from year-to-year. Are closers consistent in converting saves? Are middle relievers consistent in converting holds? That's a matter for another day but it's a topic worth investigating. If a team's HS% could be projected than it would be a valuable addition to any team projection model. If there is no consistency, then we would have to look at HS% as a measure of whether a team is overachieving or underachieving.

So, the answer as to whether the White Sox can continue their freakish performance in one-run games is another question. Can the bullpen continue to convert holds and saves? If so, then the White Sox will probably run away with the AL Central crown, though regression in other areas makes a 110-win season unlikely.

As for the Royals, it doesn't appear to really matter who is managing the team. If they are going to turn around a historically-bad, decade-long performance in one-run games, their closers and their set-up men are going to have to start doing their jobs.

***
One-run winning percentage vs.
Holds-Saves percentage, 2001-2004

Team

1R%

HS%

Dodgers

.591

.879

Yankees

.584

.860

Angels

.508

.852

Astros

.508

.846

Braves

.526

.835

White Sox

.500

.833

Twins

.585

.832

Mets

.492

.830

Giants

.557

.830

Red Sox

.481

.826

Cardinals

.485

.824

Mariners

.512

.822

Athletics

.607

.820

Marlins

.511

.820

Pirates

.489

.818

Diamondbacks

.474

.813

Brewers

.427

.807

Padres

.540

.807

Rangers

.473

.806

Nationals

.471

.806

Phillies

.523

.806

Orioles

.435

.798

Reds

.540

.793

Blue Jays

.485

.793

Cubs

.457

.791

Indians

.506

.781

Rockies

.426

.780

Devil Rays

.440

.777

Royals

.383

.750

Tigers

.433

.745


NOTES: As you can see from the chart, the distribution of one-run percentages for most teams is pretty random in the middle. At the ends of the table, the teams with the highest HS% are successful in one-run games; the teams with the lowest are not. In between, the picture is much more murky, which is why you can't simply state that one-run performance is solely dependent on strong bullpens. When exploring this topic, it's very difficult to isolate luck from the other factors. One-way to normalize these figures would be to look at opponents' HS% because a team's offense has just as much of an ability to skew one-run percentage as their bullpen. Also, expanding the definition of a 'close game' to include two-run contests would be informative. The Hardball Times has shown that many of the principles we apply when looking at one-run performance hold true for two-run performances. Unfortunately, two-run data isn't as readily available.
Thursday, June 16, 2005

THE DRIVE FOR FIVE

What's this? FOUR in a row for the Royals? Can't be. It's not possible. I've come to the ballpark to investigate.

But, of course, it is possible. Last season, 26 of 30 teams had at least one four-game winning streak. (Not the Royals.)

Strange things happen all the time. Take this game, which hasn't even started. Jose Lima belted out a rousing version of "The Star-Spangled Banner". Then a young kid, here for RBI Youth Night, pegged the camera man standing behind home plate with the ceremonial first pitch. Even in the sterile environment of the press box, that drew quite a reaction.

The Royals' clubhouse is a more upbeat place than it was the last time I was at the ballpark, which was shortly after Tony Pena's departure. The players are a little more chattery and have a little more bounce in their step as they proceed through their pregame perambulations.

Steve Lyons was circulating around the field. The former White Sox/Red Sox utility player is now a broadcaster for the Dodgers. He also does some national work for Fox. I didn't speak to him (he was busy) but it brought back a childhood Royals Stadium memory.

Roughly 20 years ago or so, my family visited the park for a series against Red Sox. The Sunday game was Kodak camera day. As I was sauntering around the warning track with a supply of Royals Topps cards, hoping for an autograph or two, I went over by the Sox dugout, where Lyons was chattering away on the top step - just a long, rambling rap about nothing in particular. He wasn't even really talking to anybody - he was just talking. Well, I got too close and he snagged a Willie Wilson card out of my hand and scribbled his name on the back of it. In time, I've learned to forgive him. Anyway, I told this anecdote to a fellow Media Wizard in the Royals' dugout and he suggested I approach Lyons and say, "Hey, pal, your on my turf now." I thought this over but decided against it - you have to be careful what you say to a man who once pulled his pants down in the middle of a big-league baseball game.

Besides the question of whether the Royals can win five in a row, the decent-sized crowd is here to see if Zack Greinke can pull himself out of his recent slump. Slump may actually be too kind of a word. The early returns aren't good - he coughed a up a leadoff single to Antonio Perez on the first pitch of the game, then fell behind Jason Repko (The Dodgers have more Jasons than the "Friday the 13th" franchise) 3-1 and gave up another single. But he fooled JD Drew, getting him to pop out to third. We'll see about Jeff Kent. As I've written: Zack needs more groundballs and more strikeouts.

Kent worked a walk but Zack got out of it with a pop out and a fly out. He's going to have to do better than that but we'll see if the scoreless inning gives him a boost. A couple of runs by the offense might help matters, as well.

More to come....

The Fourth Inning

Mr. Longball just paid a visit to young Zack just a moment ago. It was 389-foot shot off the bat of Jason Grabowski. Greinke has now thrown 77 pitches (twice as many as his mound opponent, Derek Lowe) and has given up seven hits. This start has actually been better than his last few, but what ever has been wrong with Greinke still isn't right.

I overheard Charlie Steiner chatting out in the hallway before the game. He wasn talking about his Yankee days and I heard him say "With the Yankees, there is no such thing as a getaway day." I hadn't thought this but he was pointing out how Yankee opponents never schedule a day game when the Yankees come to town, except for the occasional Sunday afternoon affair. I'm feeling too lazy to check to see if this scheduling disadvantage actually exists for the Bombers. If it does, I truly feel bad for them. Poor Yankees.

Zack just hit Jason Repko. Ooooooo.....

I'd like to welcome another scribbler to the Blogosphere: Royals southpaw Brian Anderson. I put the link on the sidebar to the left.

It's 3-2 Dodgers. Very nice crowd on hand and they really seem to be into the game.

Zack just hit Jeff Kent to load the bases. Ooooooo......

Greinke got Olmedo Saenz on a 2-2 count with one a 62 MPH curveball that made Saenz seem as helpless as a dead kitten. But he's thrown 96 pitches through four innings. No action in the bullepen.

More to come....

The Bottom of the Sixth

This is not the audience of a last-place team. If I didn't have the current standings a click away, I would never guess that this is the same stadium that seemed like a morgue the last time I was here.

The Royals chased Derek Lowe with a six-run sixth. Only a double to break the drudgery of six singles. Just a string of singles, first-to-thirds, extra bases taken on throws, errors on the other team, dirty uniforms, and levels of grittiness and guttiness that is off the scale.

Hey, it's not the kind of the The Stat Guy usually writes about but it's a lot of fun to see. The crowd is really into things. They boo when a dude in the dance-off rips his shirt off and starts flailing about like a drunken hyena. They applaud when an old couple kisses on the big screen. They laugh when an image of Napolean Dyamite flashes on the scoreboard with "Sweet!" beneath it. You can't beat fun at the old ballpark.

Right here on the Official Game Notes:

AL Central Standings (since 6/1)
Kansas City, 10-4
Chicago, 9-5
Cleveland, 9-5
Minnesota, 8-6
Detroit, 7-7

One of my purposes tonight was actually to pen a diatribe about all the credit that has gone to Buddy Bell because of the recent good fortunes of the Boys in Blue. But this doesn't seem like a good time for Cynicism. There is a crowd full of rabid maniacs waving brooms in the air. If word leaks out that some one is writing a downer, they may storm the press box with torches and pitchforks. It's best to remain cautious...

Coda...

All's swell that ends swell.

The Royals closed it out - 9-6. Jeremy Affeldt, who still wants to close, got his wish. Of course, it wasn't a save situation. And Affeldt pitched like somebody you can't use in save situations. But the Royals won and they have, indeed, won five in a row. They're now on pace to win 60 games. My projection was 65, but who's counting.

Was a great night for the fans, all 16,182 of them. (It felt like more.) Beautiful night, a sweep of the Dodgers. And, as WHB's Nate Bukaty pointed out in the postgame manager's press conference, the Royals are the first team to sweep the Yankees and the Dodgers in the same month.

Since the team didn't win as many as four games in a row last season, it really is a nice accomplishment to win five. I'm still not ready to heap too much credit on Buddy Bell's considerable shoulders but, after all, he is 11-4.

When asked what has been different since he took over, Bell said, "What happens when you have a change, you go either forwards or backwards. Shaef (Bob Schaefer) pretty much got the ball rolling. I've pretty much just tried to stay out of the way."

And that, as much as anything, is the best move Bell could have made. Now I wrote (not here) when Bell was hired that the team was due to play better even if they put the lemonade vendor in charge of the team. But I didn't foresee an 11 of 15 stretch, no matter what breaks the schedule might have brought.

Bell did say one thing that disturbed me. He was very complimentary about Zack Greinke's performance. Someone pointed out that his line wasn't really very impressive.

"I don't pay too much attention to the numbers," Bell said.

Egad.

So what did he like about Greinke performance? (5 IP, 8 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts, 2 hit batters, 4 ground outs, 7 fly outs)

"I liked his aggressive approach. He pitched inside and used his fastball much more effectively."

So it was approach, not so much results.

"He (Greinke) is a different kid," Bell said. "He has so much talent but you can rely on talent too much. Young kids have to go through it."

Didn't Roy Hobbs' father say something like that?

"He was much more aggressive. That's the Zack I remember."

I, personally, would like to see the results but Greinke was better than in his previous five starts.

Greinke was guardedly optimistic about his outing.

"Usually I pitch with a comfortable speed. Today, I pitched all out," Greinke said.

Regarding his mental approach, Greinke said, "I was just thinking about 'Albert, call the pitch', 'Zack, throw the pitch.'"

Now, I've written a great deal about how I'd like to see Greinke throw more groundballs. But is that really possible - for a pitcher to do that?

I asked Greinke that question, after the horde of Media Wizards cleared away - he seems to be much more direct and thoughtful when he isn't being besieged - particularly if you ask him a good question.

So would Greinke like to thow more groundballs?

"I think that's what really got me into a funk because I wanted to throw the sinker so bad. It's the one pitch I don't have. But my ball doesn't move that way. My ball doesn't move like Derek Lowe's."

So instead of groundballs, they turn into line drives?

"They turn into pop flies and home runs."

Interesting. If, indeed, Greinke can't throw more groundballs at this stage of his career, what does that mean? He is, after all, a finesse pitcher. Can a finesse pitcher succeed by striking out a below-league-average number of batters and throwing lots of flyballs? It bears investigation.

So the jury is still out on Greinke but things are definitely looking up for the Royals as a whole. Hey, I know what's probably going to happen - I've done the math. But, nonetheless, on this beautiful night in June, as I look over the now-empty seats, the bases pulled, the infield watered down, I'm glad I was here.

Why have they turned it around? How long can it last? Why do even bad teams go on win streaks?

Who knows? Emil Brown said it best:

"I don't want to figure it out. If I figure it out, it might end."

White Sox win by keeping it in the park

The White Sox are making some analysts (OK, this analyst) look bad.

The White Sox and The Stat Guy have always had something of a star-crossed relationship. That'll happen when you're a denizen of Wrigleyville yet work with a group of South Siders who refer to US Cellular Field as "Sox Park." It also doesn't help when you move to Kansas City and work side by side with an otherwise reasonable young man who has a Hawk Harrelson bobblehead doll on his desk.

None of this explains why Stat Guy's PROFITS projection system pegged the White Sox's revamped squad to finish 74-88 and fourth in the AL Central.

The projection wasn't based on personal malice.

Entering the last offseason, the White Sox were dealing from a position of relative strength. Chicago has finished .500 or better each of the last five seasons and has finished second or better in the AL Central eight of nine seasons. But it appeared that, over the winter, they did everything wrong.

It appeared White Sox general manager Kenny Williams had given away too many runs when he traded Carlos Lee to Milwaukee for Scott Podsednik and allowed Jose Valentin and Magglio Ordonez to leave via free-agency. While the defense appeared to be improved (it is), PROFITS also foresaw a fly-ball-laden pitching staff that would give up a ton of home runs (it hasn't).

Needless to say, so far, PROFITS has been wrong about the White Sox.

When you burrow into the details of the projection, PROFITS was reasonably accurate in most categories. The hitting and fielding projections fell within acceptable parameters, as did the forecast in most pitching categories.

There is one area where the White Sox have greatly exceeded expectations. The pitching staff allowed 224 home runs last season. This season, they're on pace to allow 144. PROFITS projected 221.

You don't want to oversimplify the matter. The White Sox haven't become the best team in baseball simply because they've allowed fewer home runs. While they've been close to forecast across the board, Chicago is, in fact, doing a little bit better than expected in most every category. But in this one area, they're doing much better.

All five White Sox starters - Mark Buehrle, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia — are allowing significantly fewer home runs per nine innings than their career pace. All of them, except for Buehrle, also boast improved ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratios.

Allowing fewer fly balls could help the pitchers stay close to their current pace once the warm weather begins to affect the home-run totals in "The Cell." Nonetheless, you have to expect a regression of the pitchers' gopher-ball numbers toward their career norms. They've done about as well as they can so far, but it won't continue - at least not at this pace.

Another area where the White Sox are likely to regress is their performance in one-run games. They've won a big-league-high 19 one-run games thus far. Based on their run differential, they should be about 15-12 in one-run games. They're 19-8. This should even out as the season progresses.

The White Sox aren't as good as they've played. They'll are likely to regress, but you can't take away the wins they already have under their belts.

Chicago is 43-22, the best record in baseball. If they play .500 ball the rest of the way, they'll still win 91 games. A decline at this point, unless severe, might not keep the White Sox out of the postseason.

Even if the expected regression takes hold, the White Sox have built a heck of a buffer. It should be a fun season in "Sox Park."
***
A lid on the longball
White Sox starting pitchers have been allowing fewer home runs this season than they have previously in their careers. A look:

PitcherCareer2005
Buehrle1.00.6
Hernandez1.10.6
Contreras1.31.1
Garland1.20.6
Garcia1.00.8

Note: Numbers reflect home runs allowed per nine innings pitched

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Greinke still needs polish

Considering everything the Royals have gone through this season, you'd like to think that Zack Greinke is the least of their problems.

Unfortunately, with Greinke's ERA sneaking up on the 5.00 barrier and the string of poor outings getting longer with each start, it's time to take stock of the Royals' pitching prodigy.

Let's take a look at some of Greinke's indicators, using a mix of raw statistics and some data from The Hardball Times.

Last season, Greinke struck out 16.7 percent of the batters he faced, which was just a hair above the league average (16.4). This season, he's at 13.7 percent, versus 15.9 for the league. Strikeouts are down.

After walking three batters only once last season in 24 starts, Greinke has walked three batters three times already this season in 12 starts. As a percentage of batters faced, his walks have increased from 4.3 percent to 5.5 percent (versus a league average of 8.4 percent over the last two seasons). Walks are up, but this is still the strongest area of Greinke's game.

Greinke's big problem in 2004 was home runs - 4.3 percent of the batters he faced hit a home run. This season has been better. His home-run rate is down to 2.4, which is below average in a league in which home runs are down across the board.

Greinke still allows too many fly balls. His ground ball-to-fly ball ratio of 0.89 this season is well below the league average of 1.24. The problem with fly balls is that some of them invariably leave the park — about 11 percent of them in the American League.

One possible reason Greinke has managed to keep his home-run rate in check this season is because he induces pop flies at a rate about 2.6 percent more than the league average. These numbers are consistent with they way we think of Greinke's style — he allows a lot of balls to be hit into play, but quite a few of those balls are weakly hit.

That may be true for Greinke to a degree. However, he allows 3 percent more line drives than the league average. Because roughly 75 percent of line drives become hits, this is a bad sign, especially considering the number of balls he allows to be hit into play.

Because of all the pop flies and fly balls, Greinke sports an outstanding DER (defensive efficiency record) behind him. So far in his career, Greinke's DER is about 4 percent better than the league average. That would be great if the trend were sustainable. Historically, it's not but, then again, Greinke is a very unusual pitcher.

Add it all up, you have a pitcher whose 4.27 career ERA is below his league's average of 4.55 while pitching in a fairly neutral ballpark. That's pretty solid for a 21-year-old. Still, Greinke hasn't exactly burst upon the scene like former prodigies Dwight Gooden or Bret Saberhagen.

The overall picture is positive, but there is work to be done. The combination of lots of balls-in-play and lots of fly balls is an uncomfortable one. Ask Jose Lima.

Something that might boost Greinke's development is some victories.

In the last 55 years, there have been 130 pitchers age 23 and under who have started at least 34 games and have posted a better-than-league-average ERA. None of them has won games at a lower rate than Greinke, who has won 8.5 games per 34 starts.

Of course, that's not really his fault. When you remove a 26-run outburst by the Royals in a Greinke start last season, the Royals have scored only 2.8 runs per game when he is on the mound. The Royals have gone 10-26 in games Greinke has started.

Greinke seems unfazed by the poor support of the team behind him. Which is good - Greinke needs to polish his own game.

Greinke has allowed 20 runs in his last 19 1/3 innings. The league seems to be adjusting to Greinke. Now it's his turn to make some adjustments.

***
A step back for Zack?

Here is a look at some key indicators for Zack Greinke. The league averages are for 2004 and 2005 combined:


Zack '04Zack '05League
Line drive%20.620.417.6
Pop fly%14.815.415.0
GB:FB0.780.891.19
DER.733.725.692
SO%16.713.716.3
BB%4.35.58.4
HR%4.32.42.8

KEY: DER - defensive efficiency record; GB:FB - ground ball-to-fly ball ratio. Other statistics expressed as percentage of batters faced.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

For Bell, it's all in the intangibles

So, Buddy Bell is the man.

Frankly, Stat Guy had hoped to leave behind heavy-duty managerial analysis for at least one week. But the news is the news, and even in the statistical analysis game, you have to have the reflexes of a cat.

The best news for Royals fans is that all of the analysis on this subject is unproven theory. Because if it were proven, this wouldn't be a happy time.

According to cumulative Wins Added (see the Stat Guy blog for details), Bell ranked 96th out of 100 managers studied in the 1988-2004 period. His Wins Added per 162 games ranked 71st of 81 managers who had at least two seasons under their belt. Bell contributed -3.1 wins per 162 games to the teams he managed.

Bell's two best teams were the 1997 Tigers and the 2000 Rockies, two teams generally considered to be overachievers and largely responsible for any positive reputation Bell has in baseball circles. Those were the only two seasons in which he posted positive Wins Added figures (0.1 and 0.7, respectively).

In another analysis, we measured the immediate impact on wins upon the arrival of a new skipper. Bell's Detroit teams lost an additional 4.7 games in the two seasons after he took over. That's on average. In 1996, the Tigers lost 109 games but rebounded and lost only 83 in 1997. In 1998, they regressed to 97 losses, and Bell was gone by season's end.

After Bell took over the Colorado Rockies, the team improved by an average of three games per season in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, Bell was fired after 22 games.

According to the Royals' stated criteria, the new manager was supposed to have experience (check) and a history of winning (oops). All of the other finalists had at least some degree of success. While this analysis is trying to look beyond raw winning percentage, Bell fails even in the vulgar terms of wins and losses.

His career winning percentage is .428, earned in stints with two teams and 807 career games. His best record was 82-80 for Colorado in 2000. None of his teams came within sniffing distance of the postseason.

It's hard to understand what the Royals see in Bell, but you hate to skewer a guy before he has hardly stepped off the plane. The reasons the Royals gave Tuesday for hiring Bell were all intangible and, of course, intangible analysis is outside the scope of this space. Turn to the Karma Mystic Guy for that spin.

But, just to be upbeat, we'll leave you with the following drum-skin analysis:

JOE TORRE'S WINNING PERCENTAGE

First five seasons: .405
Next 18 seasons: .565

See, it can happen.

***
Wins, er, lost?

Out of 100 managers analyzed in the 1988-2004 period, Tony La Russa ranked as the best manager in the period with a cumulative total of 41.6 Wins Added. Here are the bottom five:

RankManagerWA
96Buddy Bell-15.6
97Alan Trammell-16.8
98Russ Nixon-18.8
99Jim Lefebvre-21.0
100Jimy Williams-30.6