Saturday, June 8, 2013

Who's HOT, Who's NOT Over the Past 15 Games

This chart shows how teams have performed in games between May 20th and June 7th, 2013:

Very similar to what is seen in better sports sections, with the added twist of the runs scored and runs allowed for the period. All rankings are based on team's overall records, but this gives a clue why teams are where they are. The interesting thing is that, except for the white-hot A's, most teams have been very pedestrian in this period. 

For hitting, I'll show three tables--batting average, OPS and home runs, same time frame, with the added caveat that players needed to make at least 50 plate appearances. Batting average first:

Chris Davis has been on a season-long tear and might be the new version of the three-outcome hitter (home run, walk or strikeout). He's no Adam Dunn (I haven't run those numbers yet, but I strongly suspect he'll make an appearance at the bottom chart--in fact, I'll guarantee it), but 20 strikeouts in  his last 70 at-bats and still batting .429--simply amazing. Having three of the top five has certainly helped the Cardinals go 12-5 in their last 17 games and I'll comment on Domonic Brown later. 

Who's NOT hot with regard to batting average:

The Yankees are close to being the last team still playing high-priced veterans over 30, and I strongly suspect the handwriting might be on the wall for that going forward. I certainly have no idea why they traded for Vernon Wells over the winter with him due $42 through 2014, and to be fair, he started okay, if that's acceptable for someone making $21 million. He's down to a .236 average for the year and very well could stay there.

Unfortunately for Adam Dunn, that batting average is dangerously close to his season average of .156. Chase Headley is in what appears to be a season-long slump, not expected from what many were looking at as an emerging superstar. I did not expect to see David Wright on this list--he's batting .276 for the year, so this is just a rough patch. 

This next chart looks at best OPS:

Domonic Brown's 18 home runs lead the majors, and he's hit 11 of them in the last 18 games. I can't research it, but it would be interesting to see what the most home runs in a given time span is. The most in a month was set by Sammy Sosa in 1998 (27 games). Brown can't maintain this torrid pace, but if he could, it would be around 16-17 home runs in 27 games. The Phillies are 10-8 WITH Brown--where would they be without him? I can also guarantee it's the rare OPS chart that will have J.J. Hardy in the leader list. Someday I'll replicate work I'm sure has been done and check the home/away splits for the Rockies--I did a similar exercise where I normalized around 600 of the hitters with the most at-bats in baseball history, and the folks that fared the worst were all Rockies, to no one's surprise. I'll have to write that up some day. 

Here's the worst OPS chart:

Look who's near the bottom of the list--none other than the Cubs Starlin Castro, owed a mere $64 million through 2020. He's a huge source of consternation for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, since they've got a hot shortstop prospect in Javier Baez who's performing well in high-A ball and could be ready in a year or two. The Cubs were always willing to overlook Castro's less-than-Mark Belanger-like fielding with the expectation that he could overcome that with his bat. The power has yet to develop, and now the on-base is lagging as well. It could be worse--the Cubs could have Adeiny Hechavarria.

This last chart shows the home runs--we already know who tops that list:

Very similar to the high OPS chart for obvious reasons. I didn't realize Josh Willingham was 34, which tells me why he's reached the bounce-around stage in his career, but he's also either playing in friendlier hitting parks or found a new power stroke, because he's had the most home runs in his career in 2011 and 2012. 

As I wait for the database to open (it takes 5 minutes), I'll describe how I'll look at pitching--we'll do best and worst ERA and batting average, not a common stat for pitchers. When I get around to writing about clutch hitting and clutch pitching (they will be separate posts), I think you'll see some pitcher batting averages that will make your head spin. For example, with the bases empty hitters batted .187 against Billy Wagner--then again, that's what they batted against him for his career. Here's the best ERAs, limited to pitchers that faced at least 80 hitters:

I'm not sure anyone would have guessed that Bartolo Colon would make any list...yeah, I'll just stop there. The Braves have high hopes for Julio Teheran and it would appear that their patience is being paid off. Jeff Samardzija is the poster child for Cubs pitching futility--as I mentioned in my box score recap post earlier today, the Cubs woes aren't due to starting pitching, or really to offense either, but a team prone to making just about every mistake a team can make--if you don't believe me, click on the Mistake Index over there on the right and see for yourself. The Astros were on a mini-tear, reflected by both Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles being on this list.

Here are the pitchers on the wrong side of the ERA list:
Life has not been kind to Jon Garland since he left Chicago as he's on his sixth team. Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta neatly sum up why the Brewers are in the place they are (that would be last in the NL Central). Tommy Milone is leading a charmed life, managing two wins with that ERA. 

This chart shows batting average, again with the 80 plate appearance minimum:

Look at Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez at the top of the list, a list without Justin Verlander--no wonder Baseball Prospectus has them with a 93.0% chance of making the playoffs--well, their pitching plus the fact they have 18 games left against the White Sox. Madison Bumgarner shows how excellent pitching gets you nowhere with no offense behind you, and has company with Gio Gonzalez in that regard. I wonder what the Vegas odds are on Cliff Lee being in a Phillie uniform come August 1st?

This chart shows those with the worst batting average against numbers:

For the Indians, if Scott Kazmir is the answer, I don't want to know the question--he's been out of the majors since 2011. It is possible to get a hit off Matt Harvey, just not if you're the White Sox. It's hard to believe that Zack Greinke actually has a win during a span in which his WHIP was 1.969, but that's baseball. 

One last chart--batting average against by anyone with a save in this time span:

I left the ERA in just for fun. That Joe Nathan number  is just ridiculous--shoot, all of these are. Jose Veras shows that giving up few hits isn't as important as making sure those hits aren't home runs, and Aroldis Chapman continues his nasty streak of unhittable pitching. This is where batting has gone in the past 40 years--into the arms, as it were, of fresh pitchers with motions that haven't been seen in two or three prior at-bats. Strong pitching at the end of the rotation is important--the real question going forward is will teams be willing to pay for it.

That's enough for now, it's just a peak into some of the season stats and how they stack up to recent play--in other words, is a player ascending, descending or right where he belongs? It's always a moving target.

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