Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Common Sense Approach to Appropriately Evaluating Strikeouts in the Proper Context, or Dudes Chill Out Already

                There seems to be this pervasive notion amongst rabid “old school” fans and analysts that a strikeout is the ultimate sin a batter can commit, and that putting a ball in play is always better (and by extension the player that strikes out less is the better player).  The thinking here is that if you put the ball in play you might advance the runner, possibly driving in a run, and you force the defense to make a play which sometimes they won’t.  If you strikeout then nothing happens (except for the rare occasion when the catcher drops the ball and the runner reaches).  On the surface it makes sense, but when you look closer you begin to see the holes.
Advancing a runner only matters if it results in that runner crossing home plate at some point in that inning.  That doesn’t always happen and when it doesn’t, that productive out didn’t really matter. Even then, driving in a run doesn’t always matter.  One run isn’t going to help you much if you’re down by 5 late in the game.  The point here is that while technically better than a strikeout, if your team doesn’t end up winning that game those outs don’t really matter except maybe to make you feel better, pad a player’s stats, or help your fantasy team. 
There are a several ways that an out on a ball in play is no worse than striking out.  A fielder’s choice erasing the runner at second is tantamount to a strikeout.  It might even be worse if the new runner at first is worse than the previous base runner.  Any out where it’s the first out of an inning and there are no base runners isn’t really any different than striking out.  Any out that is the third out of an inning is essentially no different than a strikeout.  Any out where a batter sees at least 3 pitches but does not advance a runner or drive in a run, an infield pop-up  or a shallow fly-out for example, is more or less equal to a strikeout.
I can even think of a few instances where an in-play out has a more detrimental impact on the game than a strikeout.  A strikeout requires at least 3 pitches be thrown.  Therefore, an at-bat where a player sees 2 or less pitches (pitch counts matter in today’s game) before making an out that does not advance a runner or result in an RBI would be worse than a strikeout.  Putting a ball in play that results in a force out at 3rd base or home plate is worse than a strikeout.  Hitting into a non-run producing double play is the absolute worst way to make an out.  One could argue that even an RBI double play is worse than a strikeout as it erases a base runner and potentially kills a big inning.  That might be a stretch but I hope you’re beginning to see my point.
I won’t deny that striking out is a bad thing and there are certain ways to make an out that we’ve labeled as “productive.”  But just because a player has a low strikeout rate doesn’t necessarily make him a good offensive player.  Placido Palanco, Juan Pierre, and Andrelton Simmons all have a K% of less than 10% which is much lower than the major league average of 19.8%.  In fact they have the they have the 4th, 5th, and 8th lowest K% respectively in the majors as of this writing.  They must be great right?  Well, not a single one of them has an OBP higher than .294.  Simmons currently owns a .279 OBP.  To put it another way, even though they don’t strike out a lot, in over 70% of their at-bats they’re still making outs.  That’s terrible.
Conversely, just because a player strikes out a lot doesn’t mean he’s a bad player or that he’s worse than one who strikes out less.  Look at someone like Rickie Weeks, who I’ve heard criticized for his strikeout rate.  This year his K% is 26.8% (23.2 for his career).  But Weeks current season OBP is .331 (.349 for his career).  He strikes out more than those other three, but overall he makes fewer outs.  Rickie Weeks is a much better offensive threat despite the strikeouts.  By the way, the major league average in 2013 for second basemen is .316 so even in a down year he’s getting on base at a better than average rate.
            Strikeouts are bad, of course.  But people who rail against them seem to forget one simple thing: All outs, in general, are bad.  That’s really the crux of my argument.  If you’re going to cite a player’s K% you need to put in context with his OBP.  Otherwise you’re only giving me part of the story.

Friday, June 21, 2013

2013 Trade Deadline Preview

The Brewers are not going to compete this season. There, I said it. And at the rate they're playing, they are almost guaranteed to be sellers by the time the non-waiver trade deadline rolls around on July 31st.

So with this in mind, a lot of questions need to be answered. Who will be on the block for the Brewers? What could they possibly get in return? Will Mark Attanasio play ball despite wanting to field an annual contender?

To find all these answers and more, The Book of Gorman is giving you an exclusive look behind the door of an actual Major League Baseball GM, or to be more specific, that of one Mr. Douglas Decimus Meridius Melvin...

Doug calls Phillies GM Ruben Amaro

(phone rings) "Hello?"

"Ruben! It's Doug Melvin. How the heck are ya?"

"Oh, hi Doug. It goes okay, I guess."

"Aww, what's the matter? Got the Roy Halladay blues? You know what, though? I got just thing to cure what ails you: Yuniesky Betancourt. Eh? Eh???

"Gee Doug, that's a tempting offer, but we already got ourselves a slow position player who can't hit right handed pitching. His name is Delmon Young."

"Well, why not double down then, huh? Think about it: Young and Betancourt back-to-back in the lineup. Not bad, right?"

(dial tone)

"Hello? Ruben?"

Doug calls A's Actor/GM Billy Beane

"Billy! Long time no talk. How's George Kottaras working out for you?"

"Umm...I cut him a while ago, Doug."

"Ohh, that's too bad...hey! Guess what I'm calling about?"

"I don't want Kyle Lohse, Doug."

"Fine, be that way. Say hi to Angelina and the kids for me!"


Doug calls Angels GM Jerry Dipoto


"What do you want, Doug? I know what this is about. Haven't you taken enough from me?"

"Aww, don't be like that, Jerry! I just wanted to talk...and-maybe-see-if-you-wanted-kyle-lohse-or-aramis-ramir..."

"Goodbye, Doug."

Doug calls Royals GM Dayton Moore






"Oh, gee, I don't know...the fans will be awful cross with me if I went and gave up a really good prospect again."

"But you'd be getting a REALLY good player, Dayton! Come on, it's me, Doug! Your buddy? Your oldest pal? Tell you what: if it makes you feel that bad, I'll give you Yuniesky Betancourt AND Craig Counsell to boot. Then you can just cover all the money!"

"Oh wow!!! You'd really do that for me, Doug? I absolutely LOVE Craig Counsell!"

"Hey, what are friends for?"

Headline of the Kansas City Star on October 3rd, 2013: "DAYTON MOORE CHASED INTO RIVER BY ANGRY MOB"

*end scene*

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gems from the Second Round

Happy Draft Day, everyone!

Oh c’mon, is everyone still bummed out over ANOTHER premature report concerning Ryan Braun possibly, could be, maybe getting suspended? Well turn those frowns upside down! It’s on this day that the Brewers will hopefully draft their next big superstar.

...Alright, so maybe those odds are a little more slim than usual. As many of us are well aware, the Brewers forfeited their first round pick this year to the St. Louis Cardinals for signing free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse; something I imagine the team now wishes they could take back, considering their current standing.

So why get excited then? Because sometimes when you dig deep enough, you find a diamond in the rough. 

The best teams don’t win from drafting all their talent in the first round, they find solid contributors from all over the draft. And as their first pick isn’t until the 2nd round this year, I decided to take a peak back at all the best selections from that round in franchise history

Yovani Gallardo

Let's start it off with a current player. After being drafted in 2004 out of Trimble Technical High School in Fort Worth, Texas, Gallardo has spent a better part of his career as the Brewers’ #1 pitcher, and has done quite well in that role overall.

To call him a consistent performer, though, would be a bit asinine since he’s far from what you'd call a consistent pitcher, and 2013 has been no exception. However, it’s easy to forget just how good he’s been in the past, as he's currently carrying a career 3.73 ERA (right in line with his cumulative 3.67 FIP) to go with a 9.07 K/9. He's also coming off of his fourth consecutive 200 strikeout campaign, and has been worth a combined 15.2 (f)WAR, which is good for 6th all time in Brewers pitching.

Given where he was drafted and what he’s brought to the table, it’s really hard to complain about his production to date, especially when he’s been one of the few rocks in the rotation for Milwaukee for the past 5 years. With a contract expiring in 2 seasons, however, it's possible his time as a Brewer may soon be coming to an end. If that’s the case, he will surely be leaving quite an imprint from everything he and the team would have accomplished during his tenure.

JJ Hardy

In the midst of Seguramania, we've almost forgotten that the Brewers had themselves an All-Star shortstop just 4 years prior to this one. 

Hardy had recently graduated from Sabino High School in Tucson, Arizona when the Brewers selected him in 2001. Years later, he came up with a star-studded group of prospects that included Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks, and despite a poor final season, he performed a lot better than people may give him credit for.

For one, Hardy played his position very well. Spanning over 4500 innings with the Brewers from 2005 to 2009, Hardy rated as the second best defensive shortstop in baseball, just behind Omar Vizquel (who is, by his own merit, certainly no slouch with the glove). He hit 75 home runs, and held a .320 weighted on base average (wOBA), which is by all means pretty good for a shortstop.

The unfortunate part for Hardy was all the while he was experiencing success with the major league club, the team had a whiz defensive shortstop coming up right behind him in Alcides Escobar. This meant that as soon as he got expensive/wasn’t pulling his weight, it was curtains for him. In a light turn for the team, though, the Brewers were also fortunate enough to acquire Carlos Gomez from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Hardy, which has worked out pretty okay, I guess, especially in the past season and a half.

Still, when all is said and done, Hardy will not just be regarded as one of the better 2nd rounders the Brewers selected, but also one of their best shortstops (even if Segura steals our hearts in the next 5+ years).

Moose Haas

An oldie but a goodie. Selected by the Brewers out of  Owings Mill, Maryland's Franklin High School in the 1974 MLB Draft, the right-handed Haas has gone down as one of the best pitchers in Brewers history. Remember that WAR list I mentioned with Gallardo? Haas ranks 4th on that list, just a little ways above Gallardo, with a career 20.9 (f)WAR as a member of the Crew.

Haas wasn’t so much a "world-beater" as a pitcher as much as he was a durable, effective starter. He made 231 starts for the Brewers, only once striking out over 113 batters, but also keeping a cool 2.37 BB/9. He averaged around 180 innings in a normal year, and finished a total of 56 games in his career, including one season in 1980 where he went the distance 14 times.

Though his career numbers wouldn’t necessarily “wow” anyone, Haas was a reliable part of the Brewers rotation, and stood as someone the team could count on year in and year out, especially during some of their more competitive years. For a second round value, that’s more than most teams would dream of even today.
There are certainly other worthy candidates that could have made this this list, and let’s not forget about recent up-and-comer Jimmy Nelson from the 2010 draft, who just yesterday was promoted to AAA Nashville and will likely be seeing time with the club this September. This is just a nice reminder that even without a first round pick, the Brewers could stumble on some gold if the right player falls to their position.

Enjoy the draft, reaction to hopefully come soon after in the days following.