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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man
The first feat is ending a season with at least 502 plate appearances and a batting average BA   ≥ .400. The second feat is accomplishing baseball’s Triple Crown by leading their league in HR, RBI and BA. This posting and the following posting will examine the chances of Miguel Cabrera achieving both these feats in 2013. If Cabrera can accomplish both these feats in 2013, he would have to be considered one of the greatest hitters of all time.
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In Chapter 17 titled “Mission Impossible: Batting .400 for a Season” of my book Sandlot Stats, I use sabermetrics to analyze what I believe is necessary for a player to bat .400 for a season today. Using regression analysis, based on those players who either have batted .400 or very close to .400 for a season, a typical .400 hitter has an in-play batting average IPBA > .427 and a strike-out average SOA < .066. The IPBA is H/(AB-SO). The SOA is SO/AB. A player’s batting average BA = H/AB. It can be shown that BA = IPBA*(1-SOA). Each increase of .010 (10 points) in his IPBA raises his BA by approximately 7 points and each decrease of 10 points in his SOA increases his BA by approximately 3 points.
 
Since 1913, the .400 hitters club include Harry Heilmann (.403 in 1923), Rogers Hornsby (.401 in 1922, .424 in 1924, .403 in 1925), George Sisler (.407 in 1920, .420 in 1922), Ty Cobb (.401 in 1922), Bill Terry (.401 in 1930) and Ted Williams (.406 in 1941). This elite club, since 1913, includes just six players since Hornsby did it three times and Sisler did it twice. What these players had in common was the ability to make contact with the ball and not strike-out. Their SOA ranged from a low of .024 to a high of .080. Only two SOA were above .066. In 1922, Hornsby had a SOA of .080 but his IPBA of .436 gave him a BA = .401. In 1923, Heilmann had a SOA = .076 but his IPBA of .436 gave him a BA = .403. Their IPBA ranged between .420 and .450with only two less than .427. In 1920, Sisler had an IPBA of .420 but his SOA of .030 gave him a BA = .407. In 1922, Cobb had an IPBA of .420 but his SOA of .046 gave him a BA = .401.
 
Since 1913, of the ten times a player was able to hit .400 for a season all but Ted Williams did it between 1920 and 1930. The era from 1920 to 1930 was called the “lively ball era” due to the fact that a new tighter wrapped ball led to higher batting averages. Also, before 1930 since pitchers were expected to pitch the entire game the strike-out was deemphasized. Like marathon runners, pitchers wanted to pace themselves by throwing fewer pitches and letting their fielders create their outs.
 
The four players, since 1941, who came the closest to the magic .400 average were Ted Williams (1957, BA = .388), Rod Carew (BA =.388 in 1977), George Brett (BA = .390 in 1980) and Tony Gwynn (BA = .394 in 1994), Williams, Carew, Brett and Gwynn had corresponding IPBA of .432, .426, .410 and .413. Their corresponding SOA were .102, .089, .049 and .045. Williams and Carew failed to bat .400 because their SOA were too high. Brett and Gwynn failed because their IPBA were too low.
 
Since 1913, the Triple Crown winners include Rogers Hornsby (1922 and 1925), Jimmie Foxx (1933), Chuck Klein (1933), Lou Gehrig (1934), Joe Medwick (1937), Ted Williams (1942 and 1947), Mickey Mantle (1956), Frank Robinson (1966), Carl Yastrzemski (1967) and the newest member Miguel Cabrera (2012). The exclusive Triple Crown Club, since 1913, includes just 10 members.
 
Please read my next posting where I examine what it will take for Miguel Cabrera to accomplish both of these feats in 2013 and whether I think Cabrera can and will do it. News Flash: Cabrera is now on pace for 198 RBI which would break Hack Wilson’s single-season record of 191.

 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man
Disappointment number one is the Toronto Blue Jays. A week before Thanksgiving Toronto conducted a trade with Miami receiving Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonafacio for prospects. Add to that the acquisition of R.A. Dickey, the NL Cy Young Winner in 2012, from the Mets. It seemed to be a no-brainer to make the Toronto Blue Jays the favorite to finish first in the AL East. As we look at the standings after Toronto’s first 40 games they have a 16-24 record, 9.5 games behind the league leading Yankees. The question is: What went wrong? So far, the deal with Miami just hasn’t worked out as advertised. First, Jose Reyes slid into second base, badly spraining his ankle in the tenth game. He will return after the All-Star game. At the time of his injury his batting average was .395. Josh Johnson was put on the DL after just 4 starts. For those 4 starts his ERA was 6.86. Mark Buehrle has started 8 games with a 1-2 record and an inflated ERA of 6.19. Emilio Bonafacio is currently batting .198. Besides Johnson and Buehrle, the rest of the expected starting pitchers haven’t excelled to say the least. Brandon Morrow, coming off a great 2012 campaign with Toronto, has just 1 win with an ERA of 4.69 in 2013. J.A. Happ and R.A. Dickey have respective ERAs of 4.91 and 4.88. The starter pitchers have a combined 7-12 record. Besides the pitching disaster, some of last year’s positional players have started off slowly this year. Brett Lawrie is batting just .200. Edwin Encarnacion, after batting .280 in 2012, is batting just .238. Currently they rank third in the majors with 51 home runs and a 12th best slugging percentage of .412. Unfortunately, no one is getting on base. Their team AVG of .243 and OBP of.307 both rank 23rd in the majors. Their combined pitchers, allowing the second most runs in the majors, have a team ERA of 4.79 ranking them 29th.
 
With a lineup featuring Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout the LA Angels should be much better than their 15-25 record. Hamilton is off to a slow start, hitting just .214 with only 5 HRs and 12 RBIs. Pujols is off to another slow start with statistics of 248/.328/.418 compared with his lifetime statistics of .323/.413/.634. Trumbo, Hamilton and Trout rank in the top 20 in strike-outs in the AL. Assuming these 4 stars revert to their past performances which I expect, the real problem is the pitching staff. The Angels lost ace Jered Weaver in only his second start of the season to a broken bone in his non-pitching elbow. At this point in the season, the Angel pitchers have a combined ERA of 4.77 which ranks them 29th in the majors.
 
As for the Dodgers, they currently sit in the basement of the NL West with a 17-22 record. The Dodger pitchers rank 15th in ERA. The loss of Greinke on April 11 was a serious blow. He is back now. Kershaw has excelled with a 4-2 record and an ERA of 1.40. Beckett has been a huge disappointment with a 0-5 record and an ERA of 5.19. The Dodger offense really suffered with the loss of shortstop Hanley Ramirez who has appeared in just 4 games. Unlike the Blue Jays, the Dodgers have been getting on base but their problem is a lack of power. The Dodgers rank 28th in HRs and 29th in slugging. Carl Crawford leads them in HRs with a meager 5. Ethier, Kemp and Gonzalez have a total of 8 home runs between them. To get back in the playoff hunt the Dodgers need: 1. Ramirez and Greinke to stay healthy and put up the numbers they are most capable of doing and 2. Kemp, Ethier and Gonzalez to come alive and be the power producing players they have been in the past.
 
The good news for these three teams is there are still 120 games left and each of them has the potential of getting the new second wild card.

 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man
On opening day of the season all the teams are tied for first place in their respective divisions. Sportswriters and ordinary fans digest all of the off-season team personal changes and use this information to make predictions about how the teams will finish in their respective divisions after the 162 games are played.

Now that close to 40 games have been played by each team, I would like to look at the four teams that have provided the biggest surprises. One team has exceeded what was expected and the other three have flopped so far.

Let’s begin with the New York Yankees. If you have been in outer space for a couple of years you might say: Aren’t the Yankees expected to win every year so how could they have exceeded their expectations? Their four core players Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez have not played in a single game in 2013. Only Granderson is expected back before the All-Star break. After 17 games, Kevin Youkilis joined them on the DL. Add to the DL list Eduardo Nunez, Francisco Cervelli and Joba Chamberlain. Although not on the DL, Ivan Nova is sidelined. These players represent the starting and replacement third baseman, the starting and replacement shortstop, the starting first baseman, the starting centerfielder, the starting catcher, the seventh-inning specialist and their fifth starter. Of course, second baseman Robinson Cano is as advertised and is in good health. Ichiro Suzuki is also a returning starter who can play any of the three outfield positions but is mainly used in right field. The return of Brett Gardner after missing most of last year has solidified the centerfield position.  

How have the Yankees filled their six vacant positions? General Manager Cashman signed a combination of veteran players thought to be past their prime along with young utility players. The veteran players signed include Vernon Wells (34 year-old, LF), Kevin Youkilis (34 year-old, 3B or 1B), Lyle Overbay (36 year-old, 1B) and Travis Hafner (36 year-old, DH). Currently third base is manned by Chris Nelson and the shortstop is Jayson Nix. Both these players, considered utility players discarded by other teams, have replaced HOF players Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on the left-side of the infield.

So how has it worked out? Vernon Wells seems to have reverted to his 2010 form (31 HRs and 88 RBIs in 157 games). He currently is tied for eighth in the AL with 9 HRs and also has contributed 22 RBIs. Hafner has hit 6 HRs with 18 RBIs in 31 games. All-Star Robinson Cano has hit 10 HRs with 23 RBIs. Gardner has successfully returned batting .252 with three HRs and 14 RBIs and patrolling centerfield flawlessly. Overbay has provided timely hitting (6 HRs and 20 RBIs) and has played a sparkling first base.

At the end of play on May 13, 2013, the Yankees are in first place in the AL East with a record of 24-14. The Yankee Team, compared to the other 29 ML teams, ranks 13th in batting average, 11th in runs scored (RS) and 5th in HRs.

However, it has been the Yankee pitching that has saved the day. The six starting pitchers (Kuroda, Sabathia, Pettitte, Hughes, Phelps, and Nova) have a combined 3.23 ERA. Looking at all the Yankee pitchers their combined ERA of 3.49 ranks 8th best in the ML. Their pitching and defense have a runs allowed (RA) total of 139 runs (9th best in the ML). If we look at the important statistic of RS-RA, their 25 run difference ranks them 7th in the ML. Rivera is still as good as ever with a perfect 15 for 15 in saves. Joe Girardi has a wonderful dilemma. When the first string returns from the DL, how does he divide up the playing time?

The next posting will examine what is wrong with the Dodgers, Angels, and Blue Jays.

 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

As I did in the previous posting for the Yankees, I would like to compare the performance of the April, 2013 Mets with the April, 2012 Mets. The Mets, like the Yankees, were expected to finish the season either last or next to last in the NL East. Unlike the Yankees, the Mets were very quiet in the off-season. On opening day, the Mets were without their 20 game-winner R.A. Dickey, traded to Toronto, and former ace pitcher Johan Santana, out for the year. Gone but probably not missed are Pelfrey, Acosta, and Rauch. The only notable pitcher acquired in the off-season was Shaun Marcum. Marcum is a solid pitcher with a lifetime record of 57-38 with an ERA of 3.80. The starters so far in 2013 are Niese, Harvey, Gee, Marcum, and ?. The positional players gone are Thole, Bay, Torres, and S. Hairston. Hairston’s versatility will be missed. Forget the rest of them. Notable additions are Buck and Byrd. The tables below provide the hitting and pitching statistics for the Mets for April, 2012 and April, 2013.Mets Hittlin and Pitching April 2013

So what do the tables show? The Mets played two more games in 2013 (25 to 23). The 2012 Mets had a higher winning percentage (57% to 40%), a higher AVG (.268 to .233) and higher OPS (.731 to .698). However, the 2013 Mets had a higher runs scored per game (4.76 to 3.96), a lower runs allowed per game (4.72 to 4.83) and a lower ERA (4.12 to 4.30). In spite of a poorer record in 2013, the reason the RS, RA, and ERA favored the 2013 Mets was there were four lopsided losses for the Mets in 2012 (6 to 14, 9 to 18, 2 to 7, and 2 to 8).

 
The ace pitcher for the Mets for April, 2013 was Matt Harvey. Matt Harvey is a 24 year old right–handed pitcher who stands six-feet-four-inches and weighs 225 pounds. Harvey has been drawing constant comparisons to Dwight Gooden, a former Met phenom. He is a strikeout pitcher averaging over 10 strikeouts per nine innings. This rate is sixth-best among all 24-year-old pitchers in the history of baseball. What impresses baseball scouts is how effortless his delivery is. His fastball is clocked consistently at 98 miles-per-hour and he is one of the few pitchers described as unhittable. The best news for the Mets is whenever he pitches he puts fannies in the seats. Below are his statistics for April, 2013.
 Mets - April 2013
Without Harvey’s pitching, The Mets’ ERA would go from 4.12 to 4.67, the WHIP would increase from 1.31 to 1.42, and the Mets would have just six wins. Harvey just did it again. On May 7, he pitched a one-hitter for nine innings striking out 12 White Sox batters lowering his ERA to 1.28.
 
On offense the big surprise producer for the Mets is John Buck. The 33 year-old Buck was acquired as a placeholder for the Mets top prospect catcher Travis D’Arnaud, who is now on the DL. All Buck did in April was top the Mets in home runs with nine and RBIs with 25.
 
Harvey and Buck are doing their best to keep the Mets respectable as they build for the future. Zack Wheeler where are you?

 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man


As a long-time Yankee fan, like most of the pundits, I expected the worst for the 2013 year. Many pundits predicted that the Yankees were headed to last place in the AL East. The pundits predicted the 2013 Yankees would have to depend on speed and little ball to score runs instead of the home run. This prediction was based on the opening day roster of the 2013 Yankees. On opening day, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson were all on the DL (based on 2013 combined salaries the Yankees had about $95 million dollars of talent on the DL, which is more than the entire payroll of 16 teams).These four players accounted for 19 home runs in April, 2012. They also lost through free agency Ibanez, Swisher, Chavez, Martin, and Jones. For the month of April, 2012, these five players accounted for 17 home runs. Together these 9 players accounted for 36 of the team’s 37 home runs for April, 2012. To avoid disaster it was assumed the aging pitching staff must carry the team until their stars return. So how did April turn out? For purposes of comparison, the tables below provide the hitting and pitching statistics for the Yankees for April, 2012 and April, 2013.

New York Yankees - April 2013

 

So what do the tables show? First, the Yankees played four more games in 2013 (26 to 22). The 2013 Yankees actually had a higher winning percentage (62% to 59%) and allowed fewer runs per game (4.23 to 4.64); whereas, the 2012 Yankees scored more runs per game (5.45 to 4.62). The 2013 Yankees had a lower ERA (4.00 to 4.33) and a slightly lower WHIP (1.34 to 1.36). The WHIP is defined to be the sum of walks plus hits divided by the total innings pitched and is now used as another important measure of the pitching performance of a pitcher or team. Clearly, the pitching has held up thanks to the April performances of Kuroda (ERA 2.25-the new ace), Pettitte (ERA 3.86) and Sabathia (ERA 3.36) and the return of the great Rivera who accounted for a perfect 10 for 10 saves. So how have the Yankees score runs? Well, they did not steal bases. In fact, they only stole 11 bases in April, 2013. This is two less than what they stole in April, 2012 and ranked them 23rd in the majors. Their 36 home runs at the end of April, tied the Yankees for second most in all of baseball just one fewer than the team hit in April, 2012.

So where is the power coming from? The Yankee GM Cashman used the strategy I mentioned in a previous posting titled “Opening Day in New York.” This strategy is to sign old veteran players to short term contracts and pray these old veterans will get a new life at Yankee Stadium. Enter Hafner, Wells, Overbay, Boesch, and Youkilis. These five players accounted for 20 home runs in April. Add to this total the seven home runs by Cano and the combined four home runs provided by their two belittled catchers (Stewart and Cervelli) and we get 31 of their 36 home runs.

Of course, these results are based on only 26 games. Cashman hopes that Hafner, Wells, Youkilis, Overbay can stay healthy and continue to produce until Jeter, Teixeira, Granderson, and Rodriguez return. If the four stars return just after the All-Star break and Wells, Youkilis, and Hafner stay healthy and the pitching continues to excel, why can’t the Yankees make the playoffs again?


 

 

 
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