Cargo and Tulo Crush Reds

June 6, 2013

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Rockies rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado had four hits and scored three runs Wednesday night.  However, his achievement – noteworthy any other time it would have occurred – became barely a footnote.  Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had five hits, including two home runs.  Carlos Gonzalez had only three hit – but all of them were home runs as he drove in six runs.

Troy Tulowitzki

Troy Tulowitzki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Rockies hitters are often perceived as paper champions, since they play half their games in Coors Field.  However, Gonzalez is actually posting better numbers at home than on the road this year.  Tulowitzki is hitting better at home (he has a robust .404 batting average at home), his road OPS is .974.  If you completely threw away his home stats and just used his road stats (and bear in mind that most hitters perform somewhat better at home), he would still rank sixth in MLB in OPS (his overall OPS has him third, behind Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera).  Remember that this is a guy who plays a premium defensive position and plays it well.  There are only two shortstops who rank in the top 36 in OPS (Jean Segura is the other).

 

Manager Walt Weiss has been giving Tulo periodic days off, in hopes that it will stave off injuries that have befallen him in the past.  I’ll happily sacrifice and extra half dozen of so off days if it keeps him healthy.

Do you feel a draft?

Major League baseball’s draft begins tonight.  The two top pitchers in this year’s class are Mark Appel (a pell) and Jonathan Gray.  Earlier this week, Gray made news by testing positive for Adderall, a drug for which he does not have a prescription.  Adderall is a substance that is banned by MLB unless a player has an exemption.  Since the positive test came before Gray was drafted, he won’t face a suspension.  However, many wonder how this will affect his draft stock.

Some people have suggested that it may be MORE likely that the Astros will take him #1 overall.  Why?  Because he may now command less money, leaving more money from their draft pool to sign later picks.  Just a thought, but if a positive drug test enhances a player’s draft stock, maybe this isn’t a good thing?  I don’t blame the Astros – it’s baseball hard slotting system that is forcing these types of decisions.  The interesting thing is that the amount of money a team saves is probably less than the money the Dodgers are paying Andruw Jones not to play for them ($3.2 million) or what the Royals are paying journeyman Bruce Chen ($4.5 million) to play for them.  They may save a few bucks on the front end, but are they chasing talented athletes away to other sports?

Other notes

  • After a pedestrian April, Mike Trout his .327 with 8 homers and 8 steals in May.
  • Remember Justin Upton?  After 12 dingers in April, he had two in May en route to a dismal .654 OPS (compared to 1.136 in April).  So don’t engrave that MVP trophy quite yet.
  • Domonic Brown has long been an enigma for Phillies fans who were frustrated as his inability to reach his potential.  After a blah April, he hit 12 homers in May.  Oddly, he walked zero times (compared to 9 walks in April) and became the first player in history to hit ten homers and have zero walks in the same month.
  • The third best winning percentage in the American League, behind Boston and Texas, belongs to the Oakland A’s.
  • The Astros are 8-2 in their last ten games and are six games better than MLB-worst Miami.  They won’t be confused with a playoff contender anytime soon, but they have a shot to not be a laughingstock.  Kudos to manager Bo Porter and his guys.
  • Miami is on pace for 43 wins.  As we inch closer to the midway point in the season, they may actually be a credible threat to the 1962 Mets record of just 40 wins in a 162 game season (the Mets were 40-120, with two games rained out).
  • Atlanta has a 7.5 game lead in the NL East, by far the largest in baseball.  Nobody else has a lead of greater than 2.5 games.  Despite all their woes, the second place team in the NL East is the Phillies (thanks, Domonic Brown).

 

 

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Rockies Roundup (And Other Baseball News)

June 1, 2012

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Rockies news

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 25:  Dexter Fowler #24 ...

My Rockies swept a four games series from the Astros.  Coupled with the Brewers sweeping the Dodgers in a four game series, this means that the Rockies have cut LA’s lead from 14.5 games down to 10.5.    While that’s still a significant deficit, it’s a pretty big improvement – and a weekend series against the Dodgers provides the opportunity to make up even more ground.  Both teams will be without major stars, as Matt Kemp of the Dodger’s re-injured his hamstring and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies suffered a groin issue.

The Rockies exploded for 40 runs in the four games series.  Dexter Fowler woke up on Monday with a .237 batting average for the season.  By the time the day was over, his batting average was up to .276, thanks to seven hits in nine at bats (also a  walk and a sacrifice fly) in the doubleheader.  He had a homer and he won the nightcap with a walk-off triple.  I have to think that the walk-off triple must be one of the more rare plays in sports.  Most of the time the runner on first – who generally is taking lead – is going to cross the plate before the batter can reach third … and as soon as he crosses the plate, the game would be over. 

Fowler has been an enigma for years, mixing red-hot streaks with slumps.  However, he’s still pretty young (barely 26) and hopefully is coming into his own as a hitter.  At the moment, he is just a couple of plate appearances short of qualifying for the league leaders list (which requires 3.1 plate appearance per team game).  If he qualified, his .954 OPS would rank ninth in the National League.

When the series picked back up on Wednesday, teammate Carlos Gonzalez took the role of star from Fowler.  Fowler continued to hit – going 4 for 8 with a homer in the final two games of the series, but Gonzalez was an absolute monster.  CarGo went 6 for 9 with four homers.  The four homers were in consecutive at bats – three in Wednesday’s game and one in Thursday’s.  For the month, Gonzalez hit .351 with 10 homers and 26 RBI.  Gonzalez lead the league in runs (44), is tied for the lead in RBI (44), second in OPS (1.054), tied for second in homers (14), and is tied for fifth in batting average (.332)  and has also added 8 steals.  Like Fowler, Gonzalez is just 26.

Pujols Watch

Is Albert Pujols washed up?  Seems that there might still be some magic in his bat.  Pujols hit 8 homers in May (after zero in April), including four in a five game stretch.  Even with the horrible April, he’s still on pace for 25 homers.  It’s not a stretch to think that he can get to 30.

WTF?

Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy broke his hand in what can best be described as a freak accident.  While Lucroy was on the floor looking for a missing sock, he wife shifted a suitcase that was on the bed.  The suitcase fell and landed on Lucroy’s hand, breaking it.  His wife has been the object of considerable wrath from Brewers fans.  Seriously?  It’s not as if she ran down Lucroy intentionally with a car.  It was an accident.  These sorts of things happen from time to time.

The Draft

Baseball’s draft kicks off Monday.  This will be the first year of what is effectively a hard slotting system.  Each pick in the first 10 rounds is assigned a specific dollar value.  Teams are then assigned the total value of these picks, and this is the amount of money they can use to sign players picked in those spots.  They could opt to spend all the money on one player (and not sign the others ) or spread it around.  However, penalties from exceeding this cap are very steep.  Going 15% over the cap would cause a team to lose two future first round draft picks.

Picks in rounds 11-40 can receive a maximum of $100,000.  If there is money left over from the pool for rounds 1-10, this money can be spent on later later players.  For example, if $1 million is left, a team could give an 11th round pick $1.1 million.

I’m not a fan of this change at all.  Baseball’s draft has always been a case of each side having leverage.  Due to baseball’s draft eligibility rules, many of the top players often have the options of attending college and being drafted again in a later year.  Teams who are unable to sign a player receive a compensatory pick in a later draft.  At times, talented players slip down to teams with deep pockets, but this could be fixed by allowing teams to trade picks (so that they could extract maximum value from the pick by getting rich teams to bid against each other).

Who will be picked first overall?  USC pitcher Mark Appel and Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton are the names that pop up most often.  High school pitcher Lucas Giolito may be the most talented player in the draft, but a minor arm injury has scared some teams away (in any case, high school pitchers are a risky proposition in general). 

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Why Do Some Players Play Better At Home?

September 15, 2010

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If you don’t realize that I’m a big baseball fan, you’re new around here.  I like baseball as much as Evan likes Evernote – and nearly as much as Lazy Man hates Mona Vie.  I subscribe to MLB Extra Innings, get Sports Weekly in my mailbox every week (just for the baseball coverage), and pre-order Ron Shandler’s newest book every year.  I’d say that it borders on an obsession, but I have to be honest with myself – it crossed the threshold many years ago.  To paraphrase the quote from Jerry Maguire, it had me at “play ball”.

As a fan of the Colorado Rockies, I’m acutely aware of the differences between the offensive numbers the Rockies compile at Coors Field versus the numbers they compile on the road.  Although the installation of a humidor several years ago has cut the gap somewhat, the team typically achieves an OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) of somewhere between 100 and 150 points higher at home (the 220 point differential this year is an outlier).  The typical Major League player has an OPS 31 points higher at home – so Coors Field clearly aids the Rockies hitters.

Chipper Jones of the Braves has thrust his own opinion into this issue into the spotlight, suggesting that Carlos Gonzalez’s numbers are not legitimate due to CarGo’s massive home/road splits.  Never mind that Chipper enjoyed a 244 point differential in his 1999 MVP season.  Apparently dramatic splits are OK, as long as they aren’t compiled by a Rockies hitter.

Of course, a couple of things often get ignored.  First, the home/road disparity can be skewed by the unbalanced scheduled.  The Rockies play more games in San Diego’s Petco Park (a pitcher’s paradise) than the Cubs do, for example (this is also why ESPN’s park factors are flawed).  The second is an effect that has been theorized but not proven – that there is a Coors Hangover effect that negatively affects Rockies players on the road.  The gist of this argument is that Rockies hitters get lulled into the flatness of breaking pitches (curve balls, sliders, etc.) at home and are not prepared for the sharper breaks at lower elevations.  A couple of years ago, I analyzed some data that supported this theory.  In 2008, the Rockies hit line drives on 23% of balls they put into play at home, and just 19.6% of balls they put into play on the road – an indication that they are actually making more solid contact at home, rather than simply enjoying the fact that the balls travels further in thin air.  This was an incomplete study, as I did not analyze the splits for other teams.

More importantly, players on the same team are affected differently by the park.  Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies has an OPS 400 points higher at home this year.  Troy Tulowitzki has a more modest 138 point differential.  I struggled to find a comparable player to CarGo – but the most notable lefty who played predominately in the post-humidor era and had some power is Brad Hawpe (Todd Helton and Larry Walker played a lot of games pre-humidor).  Hawpe has a career differential of about 50 points – not much more than the 31 points for the average MLB player.  The home/road splits are all over the chart – without a lot of logic to the distribution.

I have theorized for many years that there are mental, psychological, and social factors that come into play.  Some players will be consistent studs at home, while others will stink it up in front of the home team fans and dazzle on the road.  Why?

Unique aspects of the park – Every park has unique aspects.  The most notable is perhaps the Green Monster in Boston’s Fenway Park.  The left field wall is a stone’s throw from home plate – but looms 37 feet high.  A play who can tailor their swing to hit high fly balls to left field will get homers at home and harmless outs on the road.  It’s not always as easy as flipping a switch when you go on the road – but if this player were traded, they would likely change their swing to remove the uppercut.

A less notable feature of each park is the batter’s eye in center field.  You may notice that there are never any fans sitting in dead center field, and that this area is always a solid color.  This is to provide a visual background that allows that hitter to see the ball after it is pitched (imagine trying to see the balls with fans in the background, wearing a variety of colors).  A player may become accustomed to their park’s hitter’s eye and hit better with it in the background.  The ability to adapt your style to suit the ballpark is a skill, not a fluke – and it’s portable to a new home environment.

Climate – Call it the Favre factor.  Some guys are going to prefer cooler climates while other prefer warmed climates.  The data do exist to analyze climate data (the box score contains the temperature at the start of the game), but I haven’t seen much work on this topic.

Family life – Everyone is happier when they are around loved ones.  I would theorize that players in happy relationships will do well at home, and players in bad relationships (or no relationship) will not do as well.  If a marriage is turning from bliss into hell, I would expect a player’s home/road splits to become more road-favorable.

Dining and Entertainment Options – I like having my favorite restaurants around.  Plop me into the midst of a vegan-leaning area and I would not do well.  A happy belly is a happy ballplayer.  Likewise, a player who enjoys mountain hikes is going to be happier with his home base in Denver and a fan of Broadway shows will enjoy New York.  Put the mountain hike guy in New York City and the Broadway guy in Denver and neither is as happy.

Community involvement – Some players are much more involved in the community than others.  Some players are more like hired guns – coming in to do a job, and then leaving town the day after the season is over.  I would expect the more involved players to do better at home, because they have a good feeling about the city.

Fans – And, of course, the player’s relationship with the fans.  If the fans are vocally supportive of a player, I’d expect the player to out-perform the park factors – although it’s possible that some players could try to hard and do worse because of the fans.

Really, all of this boils down to one thing.  Players who feel more “at home” in their home city should have better splits than a player who is more neutral about the surroundings.

I haven’t had the time to compile an all-inclusive list, nor have I had the time to do any statistical analysis of the theory.  What other factors do you think can affect a player’s home/road splits?

Weekend Recap

September 7, 2010

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On Sunday, I announced the intention to form a worldwide network of local reporters.  I neglected to mention a few things in the original article.  The first is that reporters are free to decline any opportunity for any reason.  The second is that I will attempt to suggest a few relevant questions whenever I give an assignment.  These are intended to be thought starters – you are not forced to answer these questions.  Drop me a line at kosmo@ObservingCasually.com if you have any questions.

Martin Kelly tried his hand at short story writing with The Bomber Pilot.  I like it – give it a read.

My Rockies swept the division-leading Padres over the weekend and nabbed a win against the Reds on Monday.  They are now just 4 1/2 games back in the NL West, thanks to an 11-4 record over the past 15 games.  The Padres have been free-falling as of late, and the Rockies might find themselves battling the Giants (whom they trail by 3 1/2 games) down the stretch.

Carlos Gonzalez has 10 hits in 19 at bats during the 4 games, boosting his league leading batting average to .340.  He trails NL home run leader Albert  Pujols by 4 homers and RBI leader Joey Votto by just a single RBI.  A hot stretch by CarGo would give him a legitimate shot at becoming the first NL player to win the triple crown since Ducky Medwick in 1937.  That year, Medwick paced the senior circuit with a .374 batting average, 31 homers, and 154 RBI.  If Gonzalez does win the triple crown, many people will point to his huge home/road splits.  However, as has been point out several times in the past, Coors Field boosts a typical player’s OPS by about 120 points.  The 450+ point differential enjoyed by CarGo must be due to some non-physical factors.

Today is the day that CarGo’s teammate Troy Tulowitzki will officially become one of his closest pursuers for the batting title.  Due to injury, Tulo falls just short of the threshold for plate appearances required to qualify for the batting title.  After yesterday’s game, Tulo had 424 plate appearances and the required number of PAs was 424.7.  4 plate appearances in today’s game will make him an official qualifier.

Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez finally notched his 18th win on Monday, in his 6th attempt.  After roaring out of the gates to a 14-1 record by the end of June, Ubaldo has run into a bit of a rough stretch, going 3-5 with a 3.98 ERA in the second half.  It hasn’t all been his fault, though.  he has lost the opportunity to win several games because of offensive struggles or bullpen woes.  In the 5 games prior to Monday, Ubaldo was 0-4 with a very good 3.00 ERA.  On the other hand, the offense has taken him off the hook in some games where he hasn’t been at his best (such as yesterday, when he gave up 4 early runs), so I suppose it all balances out in the end.

In NFL news, the Arizona Cardinals parted ways with quarterback Matt Leinart.  The Cardinals expected Leinart to be a cornerstone for them to build around – but in reality, he simply delayed their success by keeping the ball away from Kurt Warner.  Warner retired after last season, meaning that the Cardinals head into the season without their top two quarterbacks from last season.  Derek Anderson will be the starter and will be backed up by rookie Max Hall.

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis finally ended his holdout with the Jets.  I don’t begrudge professional athletes their money (are they overpaid?), but I despise holdouts.  A contract should be respected as a legally binding agreement.  So what if you outperform the contract – you agreed to a salary and should stick to it.  If you think you’re going to outperform your contract, just sign a one year deal with a tiny signing bonus in anticipation of cashing in with the next deal.  Interestingly, there’s a posion pill in the contract.  Id Revis holds out in the next few years, the 4 year deal becomes a 7 year deal – with the final 3 years at low salaries.  Sure, you might say that a player could still hold out anyway, but this posion pill gives the team considerably more leverage, as the player cannot negotiate with any other team while they are under contract.

Strasburg, CarGo, Tulo, and Cyclones

September 4, 2010

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Nationals Nation (village?) suffered a huge setback when it was announced that top prospect Stephen Strasburg would need to undergo Tommy John surgery.  The surgery, named for the former pitcher whose career it saved, involves having an elbow ligament replaced with a tendon harvested from elsewhere in the body.  There’s a roughly 90% chance of success, and rehabilitation generally takes a year.  This means that Strasburg will likely be aiming for a return on the opening day of the 2012 season.

Interestingly, some players actually throw a bit harder after the surgery (for a few years) than they did previously – so Strasburg’s fastball might have a bit more kick when he returns.  (Some nut job parents have approached doctors requesting that the surgery be performed on their healthy sons, simply to get this benefit).  While this is obviously a setback for Strasburg, I’m confident that he’ll return as strong as ever in time for the 2012 season.  MLBDepthChart.com has put together a Tommy John Tracker that will track the progress of those slated for the operation.

If you’re in a “keeper” fantasy league and Strasburg’s owner drops him, I’d suggest snapping him up for the long haul.  Similarly, if you can make a trade for pennies on the dollar, go for it.

My Rockies have been alternating hot and cold streaks.  They faced off against the Phillies on Thursday.  A win would have allowed them to climb within 4 ½ games of Philadelphia in the wild card race.  The Rockies got out to an early 7-3 lead, but ended up losing the game 12-11, slipping to 6 ½ games out of the wild card race.

At this point, there seems to be little hope of catching the Phillies in the wild card – but I’m not convinced that the Rockies are out of the division race.  We’re 7 ½ games behind the front-running Padres – but the Padres have been in a free-fall recently, losing seven straight games.  The Rockies began a 3 games series against the Padres on Friday night (after this article was written) – and a sweep would pull the Rockies to within 4 ½ games on the division lead.  A Padres sweep would likely close the curtain on the Rockies’ playoff chances.

If you haven’t been paying attention to Carlos Gonzalez, this would be a good time to start.  CarGo launched his 31st homer (“car bomb”) on Thursday night.  He leads the National League in batting average (.332) and slugging percentage (.610) and is 5th in homers.  It’s possible that a hot September could push CarGo to the lead in homers and RBI and allow him to be the first NL triple crown winner since Ducky Medwick.

CarGo has dramatic home/road split (.391 with 24 homers at home vs. .275 with 7 homers on the road) but you can’t just point to Coors Field as the source of his numbers.  Overall, Coors has tended to add about 120 OPS points to a player’s numbers – CarGo’s 2010 differential is nearly 500 points.  I hypothesize that a large mental factor comes into player that allow some players to amplify the effects of their home park and other players to consistently underperform expectations (such as Ryan Howard of the Phillies, who has roughly even career home/road splits despite playing in a hitter’s paradise).  Whatever the reason, a player who can be absolutely dominant in half the games provides considerable value to a team.

Gonzalez’s teammate Troy Tulowitzki sports a .319 batting average, but you won’t see him listed among the league leaders.  That’s because an earlier  injury cost him playing time and is causing Tulo to fall just short of the threshold to qualify for the batting title (3.1 plate appearances for each game his team has played).  Tulo is currently 8 plate appearances short, so expect him to pop up on the list soon.

You might wonder what would happen if a player had a much higher batting average than anyone else in the league, but fell just short of the threshold – would he be denied the batting title?  Nope.  In these cases, “empty” at bats are added to a player’s totals to determine if he is the champion.  For example, Tulowitzki has 114 hits in 357 at bats, for a .319 batting average.  If the season ended at this point, we’d add 8 at bats (and no hits) and recalculate – 114 hits in 365 at bats, for a .312 batting average.  If this was the highest batting average in the league, Tulo would be the batting champion.  If someone else had a .313 batting average, he wouldn’t be the champion.  In either case, he would still be credited with his actual .319 batting average.

The Iowa State Cyclones kicked off the football season on Thursday night against Northern Illinois.  The Cyclones looked good at some point and bad in others.  It was a definite must-win game for a team facing the schedule from hell.  We face road games at Iowa, Texas, and Oklahoma – and face Utah in one of our pre-seasons games.  It’s possible that the team would be better than last year’s 7-6 squad, but emerge with a worse record.

And in my own backyard, the University of Iowa (in-state rivals to my alma mater) locked up head football coach Kirk Ferentz through the year 2020.  His base salary starts at $3,675,000 and he get a longevity bonus that starts at $325,000 and increases each year.  I think Ferentz is a great coach, but this makes no sense to me.  These sorts of deals just give a false sense of security to the fans of the team.  The coach can still bolt for a better job at any time.  The only thing that it really does is make it impossible to fire a coach if things head south – because the school is on the hook for the entire value of the contract.  Hopefully Ferentz will still be around in 2020 and this will be an academic issue.

Is Carlos Gonzalez A Product Of Coors Field?

August 9, 2010

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When Matt Holliday was traded away from the Rockies, I thought that perhaps the “product of Coors Field” factor was gone for good.  When Holliday was with the Rockies, he always had dramatic home/road splits, but his road numbers lagging far behind his home numbers.  Many observers missed a few things:

1)  While Holliday’s road OPS was lower than his home OPS, it nonetheless rose steadily over the years
2)  Holliday’s home/road differential dwarfed that of any other player on the Rockies. Doesn’t a high tide lift all boats?

Personally, I came to have the belief that Holliday would always outperform the home/road differentials of his teammates, regardless of which park he called home.  While there is no doubt that Coors Field was a factor, I felt that an equally strong factor was Holliday’s approach at home.  For whatever reasons, he was simply more comfortable at home than he was on the road.  Holliday put up strong evidence in favor of this in 2009 and 2010 – posting an OPS 150 points higher at home in 2009 and 90 points higher in 2010. 

Gonzalez replaced Holliday in left field and seems to have inherited his penchant for huge home/road splits – in spite of the fact that he hits from the opposite side of the plate and has a lot more speed than Holliday.  Let’s take a closer look at Gonzalez this year:

Home: .375 BA. 19 homers, 1.144 OPS
Road: .282 BA, 6 HR, .732 OPS

That’s a home/road split of .412 – it was around a .500 point differential before CarGo’s strong weekend series in Pittsburgh.  League wide, players post an OPS of about .030 better at home.  So it’s Coors, right?  The team does have a healthy +.185 at home.  But Gonzalez’s numbers skew this dramatically, since his stats are included in the team stats.  Throw him out and the team has about a +.140 differential, meaning that CarGo’s differential is 3 times that of the rest of the team.

Let’s take a quick look at differentials of CarGo’s teammates. I’m setting the cutoff point at 250 plate appearances.

CA Miguel Olivio (Righty): +.473 (310 PAs)
OF Seth Smith (Lefty): +.376 (287 PAs)
OF Dexter Fowler (Switch): +.359 (303 PAs)
RF Brad Hawpe (Lefty): +.373 (289 PAs)

{Oddly, nobody in this gap of .300 points}

2B Clint Barmes (Righty): +.070 (375 PAs)
OF Ryan Spilborghs (Righty): +.007 (259 PAs)
SS Troy Tulowitzki (Righty): -.025 (319 PAs)
1B Todd Helton (Lefty): -0.101 (305 PAs)
3B Ian Stewart (Lefty): -.104 (325 PAs)

What do we see? Lots of players with strong positive splits and some with negative splits (which isn’t really what you would expect with Coors Field. Clearly, the small sample size comes into play. Let’s take a look at some of the players who have thrived at Coors.

Miguel Olivio: This is Olivio’s first year with the Rockies, so there’s not a large track record to draw from. What jumps out at me is the fact that Olivio has a .485 BABIP at home and a .233 BABIP on the road. This statistic – measuring the batting average on balls that are into play (excluding strikeouts and home runs) is generally about .300 league wide. Some hitters have a higher BABIP than others, but most are in the .270 – .330 range. Coors boosts BABIP a bit, due to the large outfield, but a .485 BABIP is absurd – as is the .233 road BABIP. Is this the reason for Gonzalez’s differential? Nope – his road BABIP is actually higher than his home BABIP. And as a side note, watching for Miggy’s numbers to slide late in the seasons – the .485 is not sustainable (nor is the .233, but there’s more downside to the home stats than there is upside to the road stats.)

Seth Smith – A nearly 100 point BABIP differential again explains away most of Smith’s home/road split. Smith does have a +.281 OPS for his career, albeit with a relatively small sample size (805 career plate appearances).

Dexter Fowler – Chalk up a big chunk of this differential to a 7 game stretch from July 1 through July 8 during which Dex hit .500 with a homer, 3 doubles, and 4 triples – good for a 1.622 OPS. These were Fowler’s first game at home following a demotion to AAA, and I suspect that he was trying to show that he belonged in the majors. Again, Fowler is a young player without a lot of time in the majors.

OK, the veteran Brad Hapwe. This proves that Coors is friendly to lefthanded power hitters, right? Well, except for the fact that over the course of his career, Hawpe’s home OPS is just .052 higher at home – 2010 is simply an outlier.

While we’re on the topic of career splits, here are the splits for other Rockies who have played at least a few seasons as a starters (the Rockies have a very young team).

Todd Helton: +.205
Clint Barmes: +.178
Troy Tulowitzki: +.103

At this point, it should be pretty clear that Coors Field doesn’t push an OPS 400 points higher.  For Gonzalez, I’m going to assume that either:

1)  2010 is a fluke and future years will have a smaller differential
2)  He will have Holliday-esque split in future years – hopefully with  a Holliday-esque rise in road OPS each year

Some interesting notes:

  • Gonzalez rarely walks (19 for the year) but has nearly 3 times as many walks at home vs. road (14 vs. 5).  As a whole, the Rockies walk about the same amount at home vs. road.
  • Carlos has a high home run rate against pitchers who are groundball pitchers than pitchers who are flyball pitchers or have an average FB/GB mix.  That’s a bit weird, since groundball pitches tend to keep the ball down.
  • Gonzalez is doing better against left handed pitchers than against righties.  In general, lefty hitters struggle mightily against lefty pitchers.

The takeaway from this?  Gonzalez is a hell of a player at age 24.  He has a few years to play before he gets to his physical peak (age 27) and should get even better.  Hopefully he begins to hit better away from Coors – but even if he doesn’t, there’s a ton of value in a guy who can post a 1.144 OPS in half his games.  Those sort of numbers help you win a lot of games.

Sports Beat – Baseball Deadline Edition

August 3, 2010

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Saturday marked the passing of baseball’s trade deadline.  From now through the end of the season, players must pass through waivers before being traded.  The waivers process is to complex to fully explain in the midst of this article – suffice it to say that others team can claim the players during the process in order to mess up a trade. 

The Houston Astros went into full dismantle mode, crippling their offense and pitching by sending Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt away in trades.  Berkman went to the Yankees, in a classic case of the rich getting richer.

The Oswalt deal was a head scratcher for me.  I don’t blame the Phillies for targeting Oswalt – lots of teams were pursuing the Astros ace at the deadline.  The aspect that had me scratching my head was that they had just dealt away Cliff Lee at the time they acquired Roy Halladay.  Why jumping through all the hoops of trading Lee away and then acquiring Oswalt when they could have just retained Lee.  At the time that the Phillies were rumored to be acquiring Halladay, I was very intrigued at the thought of Halladay and Lee in the same rotation, and was a bit puzzled when Lee was shipped out.  I wonder if this game of musical pitchers is going to end up costing them a playoff spot?  How many more wins could the Phillies have had in the first half with Lee in the rotation?  Having said this, I do think that Oswalt is the better pitcher.

The Yankees made a couple smaller moves, picking up veterans Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood for the stretch run.  Both are players who were once rising stars whose stars are now fading.  Nonetheless, the mention of Wood’s name always begs the question: How much wood could Kerry Wood carry if Kerry Wood could carry wood?  And that other question – did Dusty Baker ruin the acreers of Wood and Mark Prior by overextending them in games?

The Rangers were a team that pushed all their chips into the middle of the table.  Texas acquired the aforementioned Cliff Lee earlier in July to bolster their rotation.  At the deadline, they firmed up their infield by picking up Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman.  The Rangers might not play in the AL East, but look for them to be a tough out in the playoffs.

On Friday night, my Rockies hammered the Chicago Cubs 17-2.  The margin was just 5-2 entering the bottom of the 8th inning.  The first two Rockies got hits.  The next two hitters made outs.  Then the floodgates opened.  The Rockies got eleven straight, then two walks, before finally making the third out.  Eighteen batters came to the plate and the Rockies scored twelve runs.  The eleven straight hits were an all-time Major League record – and bear in mind that Major League Baseball has been around since 1876.

You may ask yourself – what are the odds of this happening in a game?  Well, with Kosmo in the house, you don’t need to ponder the answer.  Well, if you have a team consisting entirely of .300 hitters (which is virtually impossible), the odds of turning two consecutive at bats into hits is just 9%, or .3^2.  The odds of eleven straight hits would be .3^11 – or one chance in 564,503.  If your team consist of all .260 hitters (much more likely), the odds are just one in 2,724,540.

This does, of course, assume that each at bat is an independent event, which isn’t the case.  Subsequent batters may learn from the experience of the first batters, and pitchers may lose confidence in their breaking pitches and throw more fastballs.  This would cause these odds to shift a bit more in the favor of the hitters.

Of course, these are just the odds at bats turning into hits.  An at bat in a trip to the plate that results in either an out or a hit (statisically, a defensive error counts as an our for the hitter, which sucks).  The thing that made the Rockies hit parade even more unlikely was that it was not interrupted by any walks – the walks came later (a trip to the plate that results in a walk is not charged to the batter as an at bat, but is merely included in the more broad classification of plate appearances).  I can’t even calculate the odds of this happening – because the pitcher can easily stop such a streak by intentionally walking a batter.

On Saturday night, Carlos Gonzalez hit for the cycle against the Cubs.  This means that he had a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game.  Gonzalez completed the cycle in dramatic fashion – bashing a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th.