Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Three Things I Learned from the Bill James Handbook

If you haven't caught on yet, I got the 2011 Edition of the Bill James Handbook this week. Here's some nuggets from 2010 I've uncovered.

1. Nick Markakis Has a Very Specific Set of Skills

While I have given up on Markakis becoming a star player, he does still do many good things at the plate. Persusing the AL leader boards, Markakis is in the top ten in hits (5th with 187), doubles (tied for 4th with 45) and singles (tied for 9th with 127).

He also hit .338 with runners in scoring position (7th in the AL). Oddly enough, he was 2nd in batting average against left handed pitching (.361), 4th in OBP against lefties (.415) and, not surprisingly, had the 2nd highest OPS for a lefty versus lefty pitching (.906). That is really not typical for Markakis who usually makes his hay against RHP, as you would expect.

He was also 5th in the AL in pitches seen and 10th in lowest first swing percentage.

He may not be a star but he's still a pretty good hitter.

2. Getting On Base Against Jeremy Guthrie is Really Hard

Batters only got on base at a .298 clip against Jeremy Guthrie in 2010. That was 10th best in the AL and puts him in a top ten that includes David Price, Justin Verlander and Dallas Braden. This prompted me to see who was the best at preventing runners from getting on base over the past four seasons:

              Opponent OBP
R. Halladay       .289
C. Lee            .294
C. Sabathia       .297
J. Weaver         .301
F. Hernandez      .304
J. Beckett        .306
S. Baker          .308
J. Verlander      .308
J. Guthrie        .310
J. Shields        .310

That's pretty good company. And it probably explains a lot about how Guthrie is able to outperform his peripherals every year.

3. The Orioles' Two Best Fielders Probably Aren't Who You Think They Are

In terms of Runs Saved, the best showing from a regular fielder was...Felix Pie. This is not a surprise to some but the "Felix Pie looks lost in left field" reputation has been tough for him to shake. But Pie was credited with 6 Runs Saved, good for 5th among all left fielders in baseball, in only 70 games. Double that for 140 games and the 12 Runs Saved would put him right behind the likes of Brett Gardner (13) and Carl Crawford (14). He's one of he best fielding outfielders in baseball. It's time to retire the notion that he's not.

The best fielder in terms of John Dewans' +/- system was...Brad Bergesen. Brad scored +6 on that system among all pitchers and on the list of 3-year leaders, Bergesen scores +13, just two points behind the leader, Jake Westbrook...and Brad only played a year and a half of those three years. 

Bergesen needs to do all the little things to succeed in the majors and when it comes to fielding his position, he certainly does.


The Oriole Way said...

I don't think Guthrie's strong OBP-against explains his outperforming his peripherals at all. OBP is basically (Walks + Hits) / Plate Appearances, and we know that Guthrie does a good job limiting the walks (career 2.6 BB/9). We also know that he allows a very low BaBIP (.268 combined over the last 4 years). Thus, we know that his "ability" to hold opponents to a low BaBIP leads to a low OBP-against. What we don't know is why he can allow a low BaBIP, and whether that is repeatable and sustainable (though it seems like it may be for Guthrie). Thus, his low OBP is a byproduct of his outperforming his peripherals.

DempseysArmy said...

Perhaps I should have been more specific. Guthrie consistently outperforms his peripherals in the form of FIP. So I was looking at Ks, BBs and HRs.

Of the guys he's listed with, he doesn't have fabulous control like Halladay, Lee or Shields and he's only one of two who don't strike out more than 7.0 per 9. He doesn't even strike out 6.0 per 9. Outside of Shields, he has given up the most homers by a pretty good margin.

His low OBP helps him outperform his FIP by limiting damage when he does eventually give up his homers.

How he does it is a mystery but after 4 years, I'd say it's repeatable for him. He would be a fascinating study in HitFx.

And come on...did you really think he was THAT good at keeping guys off base, year after year? I didn't.