Wednesday, July 30

JHH is forcing me to write about the Tribe

Not really, but he made a friendly suggestion and I'm happy to contribute to our Tribe coverage with more than one-sentence posts. Since our beat writer covers most of the game action, I'm going to spend some time looking at some numbers for a few of our Tribesmen and interpreting what they have meant to our season and how they shape up for next year. My jumping-off point is the Baseball Reference page for this year's club. B-R is an invaluable tool for stats and such, so I'll open that up and just sort of freelance on numbers that jump out at me.

- The Tribe sits at 45-58 as I write this, yet have scored the same number as runs as they have allowed, meaning at first glance they should be 52-52. Ah, to be .500. (By the time I finish this, they've knocked off Detroit to improve to 53-52).

Update: They just lost 8-5 to the Tigers as I edit, falling back down to 53-53.

- Progressive Field has Park Factors of 106 (batting) and 105 (pitching), meaning it's quite a good hitter's park. For reference, Coors Field is 109/109; Petco Park is a dead-ball 89/88. I always thought Progressive Field was a bit of a pitcher's park, but apparently not. Incidentally, The Ballpark at Arlington does rate as a slight pitcher's park. Wrap your brain around that.

- The Indians currently sport a team 93 OPS+ at the plate and a 97 ERA+ on the mound. With 100 being league average, neither is particularly good (hence our occupancy of the AL Central's basement), though it seems you could reasonably put more of the blame for the poor season on the batters than the pitchers. Sure, there's more to the club's performance than these all-inclusive metrics, but they are good single-number indications.

- The pitching numbers aren't divided into relievers and starters, but it's clear that the latter group has enjoyed more success on the year. I'll be using ERA+ values for the rest of this section to summarize pitchers' campaigns. The staff is anchored by CC Sabathia's 111 (it's like 200 in Milwaukee so far), Jake Westbrook's all-too-brief 137, and Cliff Lee's mind-boggling, league-destroying #1 ERA+ of 186. Matt Ginter has been quite effective in his brief stay with the club, with a solid 102 mark (it was 173 prior to his outing against the Tigers - the perils of small sample size). Jeremy Sowers' (75) and Paul Byrd's (81) below-average performances are brought into fairly clear light by this metric as well (I say this as Byrd cuts down Tiger after Tiger).

Not surprisingly, Rafael Perez (124) and Masa Kobayashi (115) have been our two most effective relievers, adjusted-ERA-wise, other than, get this: Craig Breslow. Edward Mujica sports a reasonably good 103 mark with his surprising string of strong recent performances and is even being used in high leverage situations, preserving Byrd's shutout in real time as I type. This is exciting!

Not exciting: the numerical wreckage scattered around the rest of the Tribe bullpen: Joe Borowski (56), Tom Mastny (36), Jorge Julio (76), and the biggest disappointment on this year's relief corps(e), Rafael Betancourt with a 74. Yuck.

- A similar story is told by the numbers posted by the batsmen, here using OPS+ as an indicative single-number evaluation of hitting and reminding everyone that it's good, but not perfect.

Texas' team OPS+ is 116, a number eclipsed by just a single Tribe regular now that Casey Blake (119) has been shipped out west to the Dodgers. That Indian is, as you have no doubt guessed, Grady Sizemore, who ranks among the Top 10 AL hitters with a career-best 142 mark. Other pleasant news is found in the hitting of resurgent Tribe SS Jhonny Peralta (109), who continues to thrive in the #4 spot and is, oddly, a sort of calming veteran influence on me when he steps to the plate. Never thought I'd type that.

The play of Kelly Shoppach is encouraging as well, as he's shown himself capable of handling everyday catching duties. Shop has shown solid power (including a HR off of Kenny Rogers as I semi-live-blog here) and a very good 104 OPS+ mark (this stat is not position-adjusted; average catchers across the league and you'll end up well below 100). Ben Francisco (106) and Shin-Soo "Big League" Choo (112) have also put themselves in the mix for 2009 with solid work at the plate, though both have cooled off from fast starts. It will be interesting to revisit some of these numbers when the year concludes.

- We also have some comically high values resulting from small sample sizes: Andy Gonzalez' otherworldly 435 mark (1 AB), CC's 317, Aaron Laffey's 167, and Jorge Velandia's 151. Those are nothing more than numerical curiosities, but what the hell.

- Ready for the bad news? It's the rest of the lineup:
Ryan Garko 74
Jamey Carroll 87 (a dropoff from earlier production)
Franklin Gutierrez 59 (!)
Travis Hafner 80
Cut David Dellucci 77
Victor Martinez 78
Asdrubal Cabrera 42
Andy Marte 45

That's no kind of way to score runs, gentlemen. You take your top two producers and have them perform well below league average and then get injured (or the other way around), and you're not going to be a real offensive juggernaut. Combine that with some truly awful hitting from your Opening Day corner outfielders (Jason Michaels is essentially the same as the other two clowns) and first baseman, and it's remarkable they've plated as many as they have.

As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how some of these guys regroup, especially young guys like Cabrera (his batting can't go down, right? Wow, he just hit a home run like 500 feet off of Rogers), Garko, and Marte. Looking forward, it will also be crucial to the club's success that Martinez and Hafner get back on top, even if Pronk doesn't get near those ridiculous 160+ monster years.

I don't typically put much stock in defensive statistical metrics, as they often contradict one another and rival statkeepers haven't reached a consensus. Still, a glance at Range Factors will at least be intriguing. Garko is right around league average at first. Cabrera is above league average at 2B and WAY above average at SS. The much-maligned Peralta is slightly above league average, as well, though the Indians' proprietary numbers rank him lower. Blake's a bit low and Marte a bit high over at the hot corner.

In LF, we have Francisco good, Dellucci bad (no we're not talking about hitting, but I'll pardon your confusion), Sizemore a bit below average in CF (this is genrally acknowledged in Tribe communities, Gold Glove or not), and Guttierez and Choo both right at league average in RF.

Westbrook, in his limited 2008 action, continued to be the best-fielding pitcher in the AL, Kenny Rogers be damned (and enjoy that L the Tribe hung on you tonight). Hafner is exactly league-average in the field.

Interjection: Shoppach, dude, game's over, you can lose the catcher's gear for the interview. Nice game, though.

There are 35 offensive categories listed next to their leaders on the club's page here. Sizemore tops or is tied for the club lead in 27 (!) of them (almost all the good ones like OPS+, OBP, HR, but also bad ones Peralta has the doubles lead and Blake has RBI for now, though he's had far more opportunities than G-Size. The leaderboard reflects the fact that, not only is Sizemore the Indians' best player, he's also the guy who plays the most. This I have no qualms about.

Garko has a stranglehold on the team (and AL) HBP lead with 9. He also, apparently, is the hardest Indian to strike out, or else the easiest - I can't tell. Hardest, I think - highest # AB's per K (a not-overwhelming 5.8).

Lee, not surprisingly, dominates the pitcher leaderboard (Wins, ERA, Innings, ERA+, WHIP and both of its individual components, innings), though CC still has some tough-guy numbers (Ks, CG's). Byrd leads in several categories measuring ineptitude, like HR's and hits allowed. Despite all the time he's missed, Fausto Carmona still leads the club in surrendering BB's, while Laffey claims the top spot in both hit batsmen and wild pitches. Settle down, boys!

Before I go, I'd encourage you to click on some of your favorite individual Indians and check out where they've been on league leaderboards and which historical players they compare to the best. For example, Sizemore has been 4th, 3rd, then 2nd in the AL in K's the past three years. Go for the gold! I also like the "Similar Batters" features, which compare a player to similar historical players as well as historical players at that same age. Sizemore's closest peers (Alex Rios, Michael Cuddyer, Chad Tracy) don't exactly give me warm feelings. Nor does Bonds lurking at the 10 spot in G-Size's age comparison. Try it - you'll have fun.

1 comment:

JHH said...

Solid work Andy. I'm glad to hear fear has kept you in line.

I quite like OPS+ which is relatively easy to understand (what it means not how it is calculated).

Despite Andy Marte's ridiculous 48 or something OPS+ he has done better of late.