Top 10 Shortstops

K Zone Master Ranking Mike’s Ranking Ian’s Ranking Mojo’s Ranking
 1) Corey Seager (LAD)  Corey Seager (LAD) Corey Seager (LAD)  Corey Seager (LAD)
 2) Francisco Lindor (CLE)  Carlos Correa (HOU) Trea Turner (WSH)  Francisco Lindor (CLE)
 3) Carlos Correa (HOU)  Francisco Lindor (CLE) Francisco Lindor (CLE)  Trea Turner (WSH)
 4) Trea Turner (WSH)  Trevor Story (COL) Carlos Correa (HOU)  Jonathan Villar (MIL)
 5) Xander Bogaerts (BOS)  Troy Tulowitzki (TOR) Xander Bogaerts (BOS)  Xander Bogaerts (BOS)
 6) Jonathan Villar (MIL)  Brandon Crawford (SF) Jonathan Villar (MIL)  Carlos Correa (HOU)
 7) Brandon Crawford (SS)  Addison Russel (CHC) Brandon Crawford (SF)  Jean Segura (SEA)
 8) Trevor Story (COL)  Xander Bogaerts (BOS) Addison Russell (CHC)  Asdrubal Cabrera (NYM)
 9) Addison Russell (CHC)  Trea Turner (WSH) Trevor Story (COL)  Brandon Crawford (SF)
 10) Troy Tulowitzki (TOR)  Didi Gregorius Jean Segura (SEA)  Troy Tulowitzki (TOR)

Some Brief Words of Explanation: Through the rise of a myriad of young stars, shortstop has gone from one of the weakest positions on the diamond to one of the strongest, over just the past couple years. Rookie of the Year and MVP Candidate Corey Seager was unanimously chosen as the top shortstop by all three writers, while Francisco Lindor combined excellent defense with a top tier hit tool and plus speed to make the 2-spot. Carlos Correa had an arguably disappointing year despite his 20 home runs, 13 steal, and 3rd ranking with likely improvement in 2017. Trea turner broke out last year in the outfield of the nation’s capital, batting .342/.370/.567 with 33 steals in less than half a season. He would have won the Rookie of the Year most other years, and has earned the 4th spot on the list. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts rounds out the top half of the list, having just begun to show his true potential, hitting well over .300 for most of the season. Jonathan Villar broke out with the Brewers last year at 25 years old, leading baseball with 62 stolen bases, and placing himself in the 6-spot of the list. Brandon Crawford won his second Gold Glove in a row while putting up well above average offensive numbers, and taking a solid position as the #7 shortstop in the Bigs. Trevor Story had an outstanding power-filled April and continued to hit well throughout the year, despite being plagued by the strikeout and missing a huge chunk of the season due to injury. He ranks 8th overall. Addison Russell combined power and defense in 2016 to put together a nice year, and is expected to add to his tool in 2017. He earned the ninth spot on the chart. Finally, Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has fallen from grace as the far-and-away top shortstop in baseball after being traded away from Coors Field and falling victim to many injuries. However, decent power and good defense has kept him just barely in the top 10 overall. That is unlike Jean Segura, whose outstanding April, .319 batting average, and 20/30 year was not quite enough to stamp out fears of regression and get him ranked on the list.

Keep your eyes open for more Top 10 Rankings, and check out the ones we have already completed: Top 10 First Basemen and Top 10 Second Basemen. We would really appreciate it if you followed us on  Twitter and Instagram so that we could keep you updated on more great content. Enjoy!

Top 10 Third Basemen

K Zone Master Ranking Mike’s Ranking Ian’s Ranking Mojo’s Ranking
 1) Kris Bryant (CHC)  Nolan Arenado (COL) Kris Bryant (CHC)  Kris Bryant (CHC)
 2) Nolan Arenado (COL)  Kris Bryant (CHC) Josh Donaldson (TOR)  Nolan Arenado (COL)
 3) Josh Donaldson (TOR)  Manny Machado (BAL) Nolan Arenado (COL)  Josh Donaldson (TOR)
 4) Manny Machado (BAL)  Kyle Seager (SEA) Manny Machado (BAL)  Manny Machado (BAL)
 5) Adrian Beltre (TEX)  Evan Longoria (TB) Adrian Beltre (TEX)  Adrian Beltre (TEX)
 6) Kyle Seager (SEA)  Josh Donaldson (TOR) Kyle Seager (SEA)  Justin Turner (LAD)
 7) Evan Longoria (TB)  Adrian Beltre (TEX) Evan Longoria (TB)  Evan Longoria (TB)
 8) Justin Turner (LAD)  Todd Frazier (CWS) Justin Turner (LAD)  Kyle Seager (SEA)
 9) Todd Frazier (CWS)  Justin Turner (LAD) Todd Frazier (CWS)  Jose Ramirez (CLE)
 10) Jose Ramirez (CLE) Jake Lamb (ARI) Jose Ramirez (CLE)  Anthony Rendon (WSH)

 

Some Brief Words of Explaination: Third Base is an interestingly top-heavy position. As serial mock-drafters like myself know, there’s a relatively large top tier, Adrian Beltre, a Middle tier, and a Bottom tier. This list goes through the top tier and gets into the middle tier. Last year’s MVP Kris Bryant top the list by nearing 40 home runs. Nolan Arenado, who had a strikingly similar season and put on an absolute show defensively, is ranked second. Josh Donaldon’s power and OBP north of .400 made him a close third. Manny Machado, like his predecessors, displayed 40-home run power, but did not show the same on-base skills. He may challenge for the top spot once again if his base-stealing returns. Adrian Beltre’s built on his Hall of Fame case, hitting .300 with 30 home runs, and earning himself the 5th spot. The extension Kyle Seager signed a year ago seems to be going well, as he continues to display excellent power and is ranked. Many thought Evan Longoria’s career was in decline, but he proved them wrong in 2016, hitting 36 homers and coming in at a solid seventh in the Majors. Justin Turner broke out a couple years ago with Dodgers, and shows no sign of slowing down, having increased his power and stayed steady in the on-base department, and ranking eight. #9 on the list is White Sox commodity Todd Frazier, who belted a miraculous 40 bombs last season and stealing 15 bases, despite only hitting .225. Breakout third baseman Jose Ramirez just barely sneaks on to the top 10 after he hit .312 in over 150 games. He beat out power-hitting Phillie Maikel Franco and Anthony Rendon, who is a five tool player on the rare occasion he is healthy, for the 10th spot. It is also worthy of note that Alex Bregman, the newest crop of the Astros’ farm, who looks to have very strong potential, barely missed each list.

We’re in the middle of our top 10 series, and are coming out with a brand new list for a brand new position every day! Click here to get to our top-10 series home page, and see the top 10 players at any position you want. Or, stay in the loop with our Twitter and Instagram, we will use them to announce exactly when each new list comes out. Enjoy!

Top 10 Second Basemen

K Zone Master Ranking Mike’s Ranking Ian’s Ranking Mojo’s Ranking
 1) Daniel Murphy (WSH)  Daniel Murphy (WSH) Jose Altuve (HOU)  Daniel Murphy (WSH)
 2) Robinson Cano (SEA)  DJ LeMahieu (COL) Robinson Cano (SEA)  Jose Altuve (HOU)
 3) Jose Altuve (HOU)  Robinson Cano (SEA) Daniel Murphy (WSH)  Robinson Cano (SEA)
 4) DJ LeMahieu (COL)  Dustin Pedroia (BOS) Brain Dozier (MIN)  DJ LeMahieu (COL)
 5) Dustin Pedroia (BOS)  Jose Altuve (HOU) Ian Kinsler (DET)  Brian Dozier (MIN)
 6) Brian Dozier (MIN)  Ian Kinsler (DET) DJ LeMahieu (COL)  Dustin Pedroia (BOS)
 7) Ian Kinsler (DET)  Brandon Phillips (ATL) Dustin Pedroia (BOS)  Ben Zobrist (CHC)
 8) Cesar Hernandez (PHI)  Cesar Hernandez (PHI) Jason Kipnis (CLE)  Ian Kinsler (DET)
 9) Ben Zobrist (CHC)  Rougned Odor (TEX) Ben Zobrist (CHC)  Javier Baez (CHC)
 10) Jason Kipnis (CLE)  Jason Kipnis (CLE) Cesar Hernandez (PHI)  Cesar Hernandez (PHI)

 

Some Brief Words of Explanation: With plenty of breakout stars and immortal veterans alike, second base is a fascinating position indeed. Daniel Murphy’s incredible breakout season earned him the #1 overall spot, and the #1 spot on two of three lists. Having once again become extremely relevant, Robinson Cano and his near 40 home runs lands him in the two-hole. Jose Altuve, who has kept his batting average and speed skills while improving on his power, round out the top three. Underrated batting average leader DJ LeMahieu takes hold of the cleanup position, and veteran Dustin Pedroia’s most recent .300 campaign grants him the fifth spot. Brian Dozier broke out in 2016 to hit 40 bombs to go along with plus speed, and is ranked sixth. Ian Kinsler is granted the seventh spot after adding another year to his resume of consistent hitting and excellent defense. Cesar Hernandez, a rare late-ranker who made all three writer’s lists after hitting nearly .300 with speed, ends up eighth , and the versatile Ben Zobrist made the ninth position. Finally,  Jason Kipnis rounds out the list at #10, after greatly improving his power numbers. New Brave Brandon Phillips, formally a perennial top 3 second baseman, barely missed the group this time around.

A list of 10 makes 10 things to debate about! Leave a comment here, or on our Twitter and Instagram.Then, check out our other top 10 lists. So far, we have only published top 10 first basemen, but stay tuned; more are to come.

Top 10 First Basemen (And DH’s!)

K Zone Master Ranking Mike’s Ranking Ian’s Ranking Mojo’s Ranking
 1) Paul Goldshmidt (ARI) Anthony Rizzo (CHC) Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)  Joey Votto (CIN)
 2) Miguel Cabrera (DET)  Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) Miguel Cabrera (DET)  Miguel Cabrera (DET)
 3) Anthony Rizzo (CHC)  Freddie Freeman (ATL) Joey Votto (CIN)  Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)
 4) Freddie Freeman (ATL)  Miguel Cabrera (DET) Anthony Rizzo (CHC)  Freddie Freeman (ATL)
 5) Joey Votto (CIN) Wil Myers (SD) Freddie Freeman (ATL) Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
 6) Edwin Encarnacion (CLE)  Chris Davis (BAL) Edwin Encarnacion (CLE) Edwin Encarnacion (CLE)
 7) Brandon Belt (SF)  Brandon Belt (SF) Ian Desmond (COL)  Brandon Belt (SF)
 8) Wil Myers (SD)  Edwin Encarnacion (CLE) Carlos Santana (CLE)  Hanley Ramirez (BOS)
 9) Chris Davis (BAL)  Carlos Santana (CLE) Brandon Belt (SF)  Jose Abreu (CWS)
 10) Carlos Santana (CLE)  Adrian Gonzalez (LAD) Jose Abreu (CWS)  Mike Napoli (TEX)

 

Some Brief Words of Explanation:

Overall, first base is one of the deepest positions in Baseball, with lots of MVP-caliber players at the top, and plenty of potential all-stars who did not even make the list. Paul Goldshmidt has shown a remarkable ability to use all five tools, putting him in the #1 overall spot and in the top three of each writer’s list. Miguel Cabrera, an all-but-guaranteed hall-of-famer, is also mutually liked, making him the #2 overall first baseman. While slightly more controversial, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo made the 3-spot still with full approval. Freddie Freeman, coming off an excellent season, has carried himself to 4th. Mike’s contempt for Joey Votto balanced out Ian and Mojo’s obsession with the player, resulting in a still very respectable #5 position. Edwin Encarnacion’s move away from a great hitter-friendly park likely hurt his value a little, but he was hurt most by the incredible depth near the top of, and throughout the position. He ended up at ranking sixth. Mike alone carried Myers, who displayed near 30/30 skills last season, to the 8-spot, just as he also carried Chris Davis to the 9-hole. Carlos Santana was the final player to make the cut, deserving so as his on-base skills consistently rank near the head of the class. Coors Field import Ian Desmond and the Cuban Jose Abreu just missed the overall top 10.

These lists are so fun because they’re ripe with debate. Leave a comment on what you think, or talk to us and subscribe on Twitter and Instagram. Keep on the look out for more Top-10 rankings, we’re trying to put one out every day! Thanks!

We The Fans

-The K Zone-

February 24, 2017

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We the Fans, by Ian Joffe

“Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, played on an enclosed field in accordance with these rules, under jurisdiction of one or more umpires.”

The above is rule 1.01 of Baseball, the first rule in the official rule book. It is what parents turn to to teach their 4-year-old and what umpires turn to on the first day of school. Rules have, of course, always been essential to baseball, as they are to our society as a whole. But, it has come to my attention, and the attention of the baseball community, that now 3-year Commissioner Rob Manfred intends to impose, or at least try to impose, a set of new rules to speed up the game, many of which are, in my estimation, are highly unpopular. Slightly less controversial is that starting in 2017, the intentional walk will be a sign from the dugout, rather than four pitches. Still, far more drastic changes seem to be in the works. Manfred wants to, perhaps as soon as 2018, institute rules such as a 20-second pitch clock and the placing of two runner on base at the start of each extra-inning frame.

To question the rules of Rob Manfred, one must first look at the purpose of a rule in the first place. While the philosophy is likely lengthy yet interestingly debatable, one can generally say that rules exist for the net benefit of those who follow them. As children, we were taught not to cut in line, because the line helps everyone get what they are waiting for. We were taught to raise our hands, because only then will everyone’s question get answered. Rules in the game of Baseball work similarly, but its business aspect makes it slightly more complex. Like how a normal business must keep its shareholders happy, Major League Baseball must keep its fans happy. So, rules in Baseball exist to help everyone: the participants (owners and players alike) and the fans.

Through this definition, Manfred’s rules get sketchy. It may sound weird coming from someone who is currently writing a blog post, but the truth is that my sole opinion barely matters. What matters is the opinions of those who the rules affect: the participants of baseball and their fans. The rules must exist to help those people. From a fan’s perspective, the questions are relatively binary: will this rule make me like Baseball more, or less? Will it make me watch Baseball more or less? To me, Manfred’s rule makes me like the game less, and therefore makes we watch it less. But, as I just said, the opinion of the majority matters more than just what I think, and the vast majority of people I have talked to agree with me. In fact, very few people I have spoken to like the pitch clock, and literally nobody I have spoken to, including online commenters (whose opinions matter too, believe it or not), supports putting runners on base at the dawn of extra innings. Additionally, the Player’s Union has come out strongly against these changes. Based on my experience, it is crystal clear that the potential new rules are disliked by most people, despite the fact that the very purpose of the Baseball rules are to make people like the game more. These rules do not serve their purpose, in fact they do the opposite of their purpose, so why should they exist?

But, like my own opinion, my own experience does not matter much either. In other posts, I rant about the importance of sample size. What Commissioner Manfred needs is to get out and talk to people (or at least pay people to do that for him). Run some polls! Post some surveys! Figure out what we, the fans really truly want. This is not a blog post about specific potential rule changes that could affect us two years from now (well, it sort of is, but that’s not the point). This is a post about how the Commissioner of Major League Baseball needs to learn what his fans really want. As a 16-year-old teenager, I am tired of having people assume my opinion (and I’m sure many other groups can relate). People think us teens are impatient and irrational. But, the truth is, we just love Baseball. I hear on TV that MLB needs to speed up the game to “attract young fans.” The problem is, the majority of us young fans do not want the commissioner to speed up the game at all. And, the only way New York will know for sure is by getting out and polling us. Manfred must not assume what we want, rather he must see what we actually want. If it turns out I’m wrong and the fans want a faster game, so be it. As of now though, that appears to be the opposite case. Mr. Manfred: keep the game slow, keep the fans happy. Or at least figure out what will actually keep the polled majority of fans happy, instead of what you think will make the fans happy.

For more useless rants, follow us  on Twitter and Instagram. Check out some more great content too. We have plenty for the stathead (like myself), such as a piece on the ultimate lineup order or breakout star Daniel Murphy. If you like interviews, here’s one with the Angel’s #2 propect.  If you like a little bit of the facts and a little bit of those opinions, here’s a far outdated but still interesting debate. Thanks!

Sources:

mlbtraderumors.com

Images Attributed To:

mlb.com

si.com

“Statology”: One Through Nine

-The K Zone-

February 2, 2017

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Statology: One Through Nine, by Ian Joffe

“I [stat], you [stat], he she me [stat]s, [stat]ology, the study of [stat]s! It’s first grade Spongebob!” -Patrick Star

I have long criticized the Angels on their strategies and decisions, but one thing they do (now less often than before) that I admire is on occasion, batting Mike Trout second. Statistics have a lot to say about batting orders, and it is all rooted in what I like to call “statology”. To explain what I mean by this, I want to take all of you back to differential calculus. You likely have forgotten differentiation, whether it be unintentionally or very intentionally, so as a reminder, the idea is that you can take an equation for a variable, but then unpack the equation for a new equation that affects the original one. For example, if an equation represents the position of an object, you can unpack, or differentiate that to get the equation that affects position, or speed. Then you can differentiate again to find the equation that affects speed, which is acceleration. When you differentiate statology, you get plain stats. In other words (literally, Latin words), statology means the study of stats. When I wrote about Joey Votto, I drew conclusions based on the stats alone. Now, in discussing lineup orders, you have to take that extra step. My conclusions will be based on simulations (a form of statology), which when unpacked, are based on stats. Stats are the differentiated version of simulations.

Moving from calc to high school statistics, one learns that sample size is of high importance. This is never a more important rule than when dealing with statology. You can eliminate error down thousandths of a percent and can greatly exaggerate accuracy by increasing sample size. This is where the simulation comes in. If I wanted to use MLB data to determine how good the Angels’ lineup construction is, I may only have a few hundred games to study, and a relatively high margin of error. However, with simulations, a good processor, and time, we can run as many games as we want, and get the margin of error down to a minuscule number. We can also control other variables, like opponent and weather. For these reasons, statology’s simulations are a widely accepted way to draw conclusions, such as how a good lineup is built.

Simulations are very useful for disproving information that we previously thought was clear fact. It would appear obvious that a hitter batting first get more AB’s, and therefore end more games than a two-hole hitter or 3-hole hitter, but simulation evidence shows otherwise. BOOFigure1b.jpgSource: http://www.fangraphs.com/community/where-to-bat-your-best-hitter-a-computational-analysis-part-1/

In actuality, the second and third hitters end more games than the first hitter, while the fourth and surprisingly ninth hitter end nearly as many games. So, it is a myth that you should bat your best hitter first to get him the most opportunities. As evident from the simulations, it would be much more logical to put your best hitter second or third.

It is not only important to get at-bats, but it is important to hit when runners are on base. Traditionally, people have thought that the cleanup hitter will most often bat with ROB. This is somewhat true, the fourth man will come to bat with lots of RISP, but the second hitter will bat with RISP almost as often. And, considering the second hitter is more likely to get an extra at-bat in the game, it is a superior strategy to put your best hitter second, in terms of power and overall talent.

Your leadoff hitter is an interesting case. Sabermetrics have never been big fans of the stolen base. It usually hurts to get caught more than it helps to advance. This goes back to the original Bill James idea, that outs are a finite resource. The true goal of offense is not to score runs, but to avoid outs. So, with baserunning valued less, what should be valued in the top spot? On-base. OBP is the most important thing a leadoff hitter can do in order to give more opportunities to the power-hitting two-hitter.

Some NL teams have tried putting their pitcher eighth in the order, rather than the traditional last. This does check out to be a useful strategy, the idea being the guy who hits last can get on base for the 2-5 mashers. However, with this rare exception, the 6-9 batting slots should generally be put together in descending order, with the worst hitter batting last.

In summary, your best hitter should hit second in your lineup, for he will, on a game-by-game basis, produce about as many at-bats as anyone else, and be presented with stronger opportunities than others. Your three and four hitters should have power, while your leadoff hitter needs on-base skill. Presented by simulations, there is a clear strategy to batting order. But, how much does this really matter? If you look back at the graph by Fangraphs a few paragraphs ago, the x-axis differs by tiny units, with a range of maybe 1%. Other data shows similar patterns, with there being some difference, but very little between batting order position. So, next time you think your team lost the game because that “stupid manager” messed up on the lineup card, you may be right in criticizing him, but any change probably would have resulted in a similar game.

We would really appreciate if you followed us on Twitter and Instagram, or checked out some more great content like my  dissection of the statistic WAR or Mike’s passionate argument about rookie salaries.

Sources:

fangraphs.com

beyondtheboxscore.com

fivethirtyeight.com

Image Attributions:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/baseballs-lineup-shuffle-1459443463

http://auctions.beckett.com/texas_rangers_game_used_lineup_card__june_18__2014-lot12107.aspx

Kansas City’s Royal Mistake

-The K Zone-

January 19th, 2016

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Kansas City’s Royal Mistake, by Ian Joffe

Note: When this article was just gaining traction, the baseball community learned about the tragic death of Yordano Ventura. I strongly considered taking this article down, which was written multiple days before the event. However, because this article does not directly pertain to Ventura, I decided to leave it up. The K Zone’s and my personal condolences go out to the family, friends, and fans of the current and should-have-been future ace. 

My personal condolences also go out to the family, friends, and fans of the Yordano Ventura. – Mike Duffy; CEO/Creator of The K Zone .

Fans of the Kansas City Royals have been lucky enough to appear in two consecutive World Series, winning one (2015). But now, it appear their demise is near. Following the 2017 season, many lineup mainstays are scheduled to leave the team via free agency, including Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar. That makes up about half of their lineup, including arguably their two best hitters. It is difficult to argue that KC, already with weak starting pitching, will have any chance at contending past the coming season. However, the Royals have been given a rare opportunity that I only dream my teams had, and I constantly try to create on my fake Out Of the Park simulation teams.

Danny Duffy, only 28 years old, has just completed his first season both as a full-time starter, and a good baseball player. Scouts have long said that Duffy has high potential, and it appears he is finally beginning to reach it. In 2016, the southpaw put up a very respectable 3.51 ERA and 3.79 xFIP (a more accurate version of earned run average), along with over a strikeout per inning and a K/BB ratio of 4.48. Duffy put together a messy 2015, with an ERA and xFIP over 4.00, and a K/BB ratio of only 1.92.However, the season before that Danny excelled in a split role between starter and bullpen, at least according to ERA, putting up a 2.53 mark. The more advanced metrics didn’t love that season nearly as much as the simple ERA, but you get the picture. Danny Duffy, while inconsistent, has the potential to use his fiery fastball and powerful stuff to get outs. He may very well continue on his 2016 trend, improving to a solid #2 starter on any team. Other teams have also come to realize this arm’s potential. Among teams reportedly interested in trading for Duffy have been the Houston Astros, who have been casting a wide net in their hopes of adding a starter.

However, as of January 16th, it appears highly unlikely that Houston or a similar team will get their hands on the blossoming pitcher. Kansas City has signed Duffy to a 5-year arrangement, reportedly worth around $65MM. This $13MM average annual value (although, to be fair, the deal is very back-loaded) appears to be a relative bargain for a pitcher who seems to just be figuring things out. The Royals are buying a potential all-star (last year Duffy put up a 2.8 WAR, so improving by about one win, which he could very well do, would make him all-star level), at a very average price for a 28-year-old in today’s game. The extension looks good on paper, but it is, in fact, a terrible mistake.

The “opportunity” I discussed earlier is in reference to, well, a total sell-out. Or, we could instead call it, a rebuild. Having nearly every player leave the team in the same year may seem like curse, but it really means like the team does not have to worry about when they should sell out. The answer is, of course, one year before everyone leaves. There are some teams in terrible positions right now, because they do not have a very a competitive team, and have little to no talent in their farm system. Teams like the Marlins and Angels are arguably part of this group. The Phillies of a few years ago, stuck with their aging veterans, would be another good example (sorry Mike). On the other hand, there are amazing success stories for teams that did face the music and rebuild, like the Astros and World Series champion Cubs. KC’s goal must be to not end up stuck like the Angels, but to end up with too many prospects to count, like the Cubs. It does not matter if GM Dayton Moore thinks they can win the World Series in 2017. Now is the time to sell, when there are still pieces. Duffy could have been a valuable piece, with his stats trending in the right direction. But, instead of getting prospects for the future, KC will get a good starter for a bad team. The Royals organization, and I don’t want to attack the fans, but them too, must realize that their team’s run is nearing an end. Now is the time to sell, and to hopefully build a good future. Based on what the White Sox got for two men, which brought their farm system from one of the worst to one of the best, the Royals could be in store for a crazy future. But for that to happen, they must learn to let go of their players. It is time for Kansas City to end their run, and use their unique blessing. This winter, or at least this trade deadline, is the time that KC must go into fire-sale mode. Even if they want to compete this year, they are trading a long shot now for years and years of suffering in the future. Duffy should have been traded for prospects, not extended, and the team must do the same for all other players entering free agency. And, they cannot look to trade for current contributors, like they did trading Wade Davis for Jorge Soler. It is okay to lose games in the next few years, if it means victories for years to come. It is time for Dayton Moore to take advantage of the blessing his team has, and to start selling.

The cost of the win is the loss. The rebuild must begin.

You may also enjoy reading my piece about the statistic Wins Above Replacement, or Mike Duffy’s outstanding interview with Phillie Zach Eflin

Sources:

mlbtraderumors.com

rosterresource.com

fangraphs.com

Images attributed to:

The Kansas City Royals are named for cows, not kings and queens

http://abc30.com/sports/danny-duffy-carries-perfect-game-into-7th-as-royals-blank-orioles/65171/

Dissecting WAR

-The K Zone-

December 25th, 2016

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Dissecting WAR, by Ian Joffe

For year now, there has been a war going on over WAR. Wins Above Replacement (WAR, for short), a statistic engineered to encompass a player’s full, true contribution to a team, has drawn “radicals” both for and against it, as well as a bunch of people who have no idea what is going on, or want to know more. This article is for those people, who seek want to know all they can about the statistic, and then decide whether or not it should be followed. First, there are a few things that need to be cleared up. There is not one WAR, in fact, there are three major sites that provide their own statistic: Fangraphs has fWAR, Baseball Reference has bWAR, and Baseball Prospectus has WARP. I will begin by explaining fWAR, and then discuss its similarities and differences to the other calculations. Furthermore, the is WAR for both hitters and pitchers. However, batter WAR is considered more refined, and is much more widely used, therefore I will stick to batter WAR in this article. Indented statistics make up the nearest less-indented statistics above them.

WAR (Wins Above Replacement): This is the big stat we are trying to break down. It attempts to measure a player’s value above replacement level, in the form of wins. Replacement level refers to what would happen if the player suddenly disappeared, and had to be “replaced” by the average minor league or bench option. The three WAR models each calculate how many wins a replacement level player is worth, and use it to calculate how many “Wins Above Replacement” someone else is worth. Additionally, WAR is park-adjusted and league-adjusted, meaning it uses league averages and park averages to put all players on an equal playing field. One hitter will not score a higher WAR because their opponents has easier pitchers or they player in a hitter-friendly ballpark.

Hitting Runs: wRAA (Weighted Runs Above Average): wRAA is a statistic that compares a player to the average major league hitter, and says how much better or worse they are. wRAA only measures hitting ability, and ignores areas of the game like speed and defense. A player with a positive wRAA is above average, and player with a negative wRAA is below average. This is a little different from WAR, which compares a player to replacement value, not average value. It will manipulated a little in order to adjust for league and park, and then make it fit with replacement value.

wOBA (Weighted On Base Average): wOBA is like slugging percentage on steroids. It is the primary component of wRAA. While SLG simply makes a single one point, a double two points, etc., wOBA works to provide the true values of each of those four outcomes. It turns out a double is only worth about 1.4 times as much as a single, and a home run is worth only about 2.4 times as much as a single. Walks are also included in wOBA (worth slightly less than a single), unlike SLG. The so-called weights (how valuable each play is) is calculated using the run expectancy matrix (the decimal is the odds of scoring a run in that inning):

Runners 0 Outs 1 Out 2 Outs
Empty 0.461 0.243 0.095
1 _ _ 0.831 0.489 0.214
_ 2 _ 1.068 0.644 0.305
1 2 _ 1.373 0.908 0.343
_ _ 3 1.426 0.865 0.413
1 _ 3 1.798 1.140 0.471
_ 2 3 1.920 1.352 0.570
1 2 3 2.282 1.520 0.736

Source: http://www.fangraphs.com/library/misc/re24/

Singles, Doubles, Triples, Home Runs, HBP, BB: I hope these are self-explanatory

Baserunning Runs: Baserunning Runs looks the different occurrences on the basse paths, and assigns each a run value. It then turns the number into WAR format.

wSB (Weighted Stolen Bases): wSB uses steals itself to make a more accurate measure of how much a player’s steals are worth. It not only looks at the sheer number of bases taken, but how often a player chose to run, and how often the runner got caught.

SB (Stolen Bases)

UBR (Ultimate Baserunning): UBR tries to provide for almost every baserunning event that occurs when the ball is hit, such as fielder’s choice, tagging up, and advancing two bases on a single or three on a double. It uses video tracking systems to come up with its raw statistics.

7 Possible Situations: I am not going to list them here, but you can check the list out on fangraphs here.

wGDP (Weighted Groundballs into Double Plays): wGDP (NOT Gross Domestic Product, I hate it when people make that joke) looks at how often a player has an oppurtunity to ground into a double play, and how often it happens. This stat is only a minor addition to the WAR puzzle.

DP (Double Plays), DP Opportunities

Fielding Runs: UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating): UZR uses video tracking technology  to watch each ball hit at a fielder. It looks at such information as hang time and distance from the fielder, and then takes a binary input: did the fielder catch the ball or not. This works well for data like range and how often a player makes an error, and is generally a good representation on how well a player fields. NOTE: there is no UZR for catchers, so WAR uses alternate statistics.

Such Raw Statistics as flyball/groundball/liner/”fliener,” and hard/medium/soft contact

Positional Adjustment: WAR adjusts a player’s score based on their position. If a player is at a position with very poor other players, they are considered to be worth more, and vise versa. Currently, catcher is considered the weakest position, with shortstop as a close second. DH is considered the strongest position, followed by first base and corner outfield. If a player spends split time between positions, they will receive split adjustments based on how many games they played at each.

Well, those are the basics for the fWAR calculation. bWAR is very similar for the most part, but has a few minor differences. For example, they use DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) instead of UZR for defense, but those two stats are very similar. bWAR also has different positional adjustments and a different replacement level. WARP is, unfortunately, less transparent. We do not know exactly how it is calculated, but we do know that it is a far more complex version of VORP, a statistic that attempted to be similar to WAR, about 15 years ago. For these transparency reasons, I generally use WARP less than the other two models, but despite those issues, it is often hailed as the most accurate of the three. Anyways, the measurements almost always come out to be extremely close no made which model you use.

For context, a player with a WAR of about 2.0 is considered average, a player with a WAR of 4.0 is considered all-star level, and a player with a WAR greater than 6.0 is considered a legitimate MVP candidate. In 1923, Babe Ruth racked up 14.1 bWAR, the most all time in one season. He also holds the second and third place records. Ruth also owns a miraculous 183.6 lifetime bWAR, by far the most in history. Out of modern era players who did not take PEDs, Bill Ripken leads the charge 1991 11.5 bWAR (Barry Bonds accumulated 11.8 bWAR in 2001). Mike Trout led 2016 in bWAR, posting a 10.6 mark, follwed by Mookie Betts (9.6) and Kris Bryant (7.7). Every year, a many regulars finish with a negative, WAR, meaning a replacement player would have done a better job. Not to start a roast, but last year Alexi Ramierez had the worst fWAR in baseball, at -2.4. Better luck next year, Alexi!

So, the final question is, how good is WAR of a stat, really? Wins Above Replacement drew a lot of criticism in 2012, when many people argued AL WAR leader Mike Trout should have won the MVP rather than Triple-Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who held a far worse WAR in any model. By sabermetric standards, the triple crown, consisting of hits, home runs, and RBIs, is a very outdated model, not even close to what WAR has reached today. And, I personally tend to agree with them them. WAR is a terrific stat, one of the best we have, and it should be strongly considered when discussing a player’s worth. Also, team WAR has shown to have a large correlation with team win/loss record, which is a good sign that it means something, But WAR is not everything. While it may appear to be an “everything stat,” it hardly is that. The truth is that while WAR is some of the best information we have, it is still highly imperfect. However, when taken with a grain of salt, WAR can be a highly useful statistic to front office and fan alike.

 

Go ahead and check out some of my other work on The K Zone News, such as my piece about the future of baseball, as well as some of Mike’s great interviews, like his talk with Eric Filia!

 

Sources:

fangraphs.com

bbref.com

baseballprospectus.com

beyondtheboxscore.com

sportingcharts.com

 

Images attributed to:

hittingperfomrancelab.com

johnpaciorek.com

pinterest.com

The Relieving Future of Baseball: A Graph-ic Novel

-The K Zone-

December 25th, 2016

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Andrew Miller, of the 2016 Postseason Indians, showed just how valuable a multi-inning reliever could be

The Relieving Future of Baseball: A Graph-ic Novel, by Ian Joffe

When reminiscing on the Dodger’s 2016 playoff run, one of the most memorable moments that comes to mind was in game National League Divisional Series against the Washington Nationals. If you need a refresher, star closer Kenley Jansen had already pitched the 7th and 8th innings, and after allowing two walks in the ninth, it seemed he was tiring out. Jansen still needed two outs, but his control was clearly fading, it was a one run game, and Dodgers’ postseason nemesis Daniel Murphy was at the plate. How did manager Dave Roberts solve this dilemma? He shocked the world, sending starting pitching ace Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the best pitcher of this generation, to the hill. Kershaw made quick work of Murphy and Wilmir Difo, to collect the save and help the team move on to play the Cubs in the NLCS.

The successful use of Kershaw the closer is an omen of a change to come in the future of baseball. As time goes by, the role of the starter in baseball will dwindle down to nothing, and relievers will dominate all nine innings of the game. The idea may sound slightly insane, but there is certainly precedent for it. MLB is always trending towards more and more reliever usage (the y-axis is the average IP of a starter, per start in the given year):

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Source: http://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2014/1/13/5296618/why-the-stat-of-pitching-wins-is-obsolete-in-one-graph

This graph shows the how the use of starting pitchers has been diminished throughout the years. The trend clearly shows that starters are being hooked earlier in games, allowing relievers to take the field. The importance of relievers is further shown here:

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Source: https://theringer.com/relief-pitcher-atari-closer-bullpen-f1a4b04e4084#.2mb2tfwu8

Each year, more and more relievers are utilized by teams. The trends are clear. It is very reasonable to continue these curves, and estimate that in the next few decades, the role of a starter could be only a few innings – basically making them relievers themselves.  Teams continue to rely on relief pitchers more, and there is reason why they do so.

Relievers are simply more effective at getting the outs they have to get than starters. Batting average against, the measure of how well or poorly one gets outs, shows this trend:P12.png

Source: http://www.livewild.org/bb/pitchingstaff/

My apologies that the graph only goes up to 2005, but you get the idea. Since the true introduction of the reliever in the mid-late 20th century, that role has retired batters at a consistently more efficient rate. There are two main reason for this. First of all, it is generally true that as the game goes on, pitchers tire out more. P14.png

Source: http://www.livewild.org/bb/pitchingstaff/

The y-axis is a statistic that is very similar to BAA (batting average against), but makes all pitchers and hitters equal, normalizing them to average based on their other performances over the course of the season. Aside from the first six outs or so, pitchers get less and less effective as the game goes on, and are less able to perform the most necessary task of baseball: creating outs. However, over the first five batters or so, which is about how long a reliever is expected to pitch for, there is little to no regression. Overall, pitchers tire out over the course of the game, but are okay for the first five batters or so. The other reason why starters have higher ERAs than relievers is that pitchers get worse each time they see a certain hitter.

Times Through Lineup Opp. wOBA, adjusted to player quality
1 .340
2 .350
3 .359

Source: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22156

The chart shows the relationship between the number of times a pitcher has gone through the batting order and their opposing wOBA (a statistic similar to, but more accurate than SLG%), after it is adjusted to the fact that pitchers tire out, plus batter quality increases later in the game. It is a clear pattern that each time a pitcher faces a batter, they get worse. Starters will face each batter twice, three times, or more, while relievers may only face each batter once. This is just another reason why short-term pitchers are more effective than long-term pitchers.

Thus, the trends are justified. They show that the future of the game is dominated by relievers, and there is reason why this would happen: the nature of the relief pitcher is better than the nature of the starter. There is just one obstacle blocking this trend: value. Today’s sabermetric front offices are looking for players that can give the most productivity for what they are paid. It would be difficult for a reliever, who may pitch two or three innings every five days, to match a starter who might pitch six innings, over the same period of time. This is why, to fit the trends, the role of the reliever must change.

This postseason, pitchers like Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen filled larger roles than just their usual one inning. They put together outings of 5, 6, and 7 outs. Through outings like those, relievers will achieve values close to or above those of starters. When I look into the crystal orb for MLB, I see teams holding two sets of 4-5 pitchers, who will each throw about two innings, or about 6-9 batters, every other day. The rest of the pitching staff (2-4 pitchers, if a team carries 12 on their roster) can be used as depth in case a usual pitcher is having a rough outing, someone gets hurt, or the game goes into extra innings.

In this reality, pitchers throw about 160 inning each year. This is nearly as much as a starter, and will therefore come at much better value, as starters are paid far more than relievers:01-444.jpg

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-mlbs-highest-paid-positions-2014-7

Top relievers and closers make about the least amount of money compared to other positions, especially starters, who make the most. This data set was put together in 2014, before deals like Chapman’s $86MM, Jansen’s $80MM, and Melancon’s $62MM, so relievers and starters will likely be paid a bit more now, but so will all the other positions. In general, relievers are paid very little compared to starters, and if relievers are pitching nearly as many innings, that means they will be a relative bargain. Additionally, at least from my fantasy mindset, the reliever closer markets have relative depth. Last year, I was able to pick up most of my staff after pick #100, and I plan to do the same this season. That means teams should not have to pay top dollar to get a valuable relief pitcher.

As a final value point, relievers are far less likely to have to go under the knife than starters. In an interview with Grantland (Source: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/tommy-john-epidemic-elbow-surgery-glenn-fleisig-yu-darvish/), baseball doctor Glenn Fleising said:

“Pitchers, especially those who on the younger side, are far more likely to get hurt if they throw more than 80 pitches per appearance.”

Relievers, especially in my two-inning system, would rarely throw 80 pitches. It is extremely important for players to be able to be able to stay on the field, especially in this day and age of seemingly constant injuries. It is highly valuable for players to be producing as often as they can, meaning not constantly breaking their bodies. Lack of injuries is all the more reason to increase the value of relief pitchers. It is arguable that if we start to force relievers to throw triple innings per season, it will make them more likely to be hurt. But, what if we took starters, and decreased their workload from 200 to 160 innings. In the future of baseball, players will be trained throughout their whole professional career to throw their 160 innings, to account for the benefits of relief pitching and value/productivity. Those who are trained to be starters are able to go 200 innings per year, so if on is trained to pitch 160 innings per year, they will able to do so. The future of MLB is certainly a relieving one.

Check out my debate with Mike over the Dodgers next second baseman, my piece about the Royal’s big mistake, or an interview with Zach Eflin.

 

Many thanks to my data sources! I recommend that you guys click those links and read the articles, many are extremely good.

Image Attribuitions:

http://www.computerworld.com/article/3022514/data-analytics/yahoo-has-released-a-ton-of-anonymized-user-data-to-help-machine-learning-scientists.html

Heels in MLB: Cleveland Indians’ pitcher Andrew Miller, MVP 2016 ALCS