Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Putting the "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" in "Detroit Tigers" And the "???????" in "Washington ???????s"

This week, I've written entries defending decisions to acquire three high-priced players over thirty that might otherwise be looked upon with scorn. Three recent acquisitions have no such redeeming value, and I can't even conceive of how to defend them.

Jim Bowden's moves defy explanation. Well, okay, they don't, but they defy any explanation that would credit Bowden with a general sense of rationality, a perfunctory understanding of baseball, and a desire to succeed in his job. When Bowden was hired I considered posting something about what a stupid investment that would be for the 29 MLB teams that own the Washington Inpos, as no intelligent person would want to pay much for a franchise run by Bowden. I then realized, of course, that the owners would recoup that money because their teams would beat up on the fighting Bowdens. Let's just put it this way: if there's any logic to the Castilla and Guzman signings, Bowden is probably working the phones with Larry Beinfest right now because he wants a "proven run producer" in the outfield and the Marlins want to unload Juan Encarnacion. And yes, for those keeping score, Bowden actually did refer to Encarnacion as a "proven run producer" on ESPNews on July 30, 2004.

In fact, I've come up with the Inpo's new marketing campaign:

D.C. BASEBALL* IS BACK!




*caution: may not contain more than 30% baseball substance.

As Tom Waits said, "The large print giveth and the small print taketh away."

Meanwhile, Dave Dombrowski's Detroit decisions are deliciously D-minus-ly. Huzzah! Percival's 2.90 ERA in 2004 is surely a portent of things to come, yes? Well, no, as Percival's strikeout rates have been plummeting year to year and his home run rate isn't in great shape either. Toss in that he hasn't thrown 58 or more innings in any season since 1998, and six million dollars per season is getting pretty ridiculous.

Let me try to muster the strength to play devil's advocate on this one. Percival might not have the ability to overpower hitters any more, but his .230 opponents average was for real because, based on his batted ball type data, he induces a ton of fly balls, especially infield flies. I used one of my favorite little tools to find the answer here. JC Bradbury of The Sabernomics Blog did a study on the correlation between batted ball types and batting average on balls in play. I made a spreadsheet that adjusts a pitcher's stats based on his batted ball types and an average defense using Bradbury's findings and then inputs this data into the runs created formula to find RC and RC/27 as well as expected ERA ((RC/27)*((league R/G)/(league ERA))). Percival comes out with a 4.73 ERA, or 4.64 if adjusted for playing in Comerica. In other words, just over league average. So the Tigers are in line for 100 league average innings for $12 million, or $120,000 per inning. Deeeelightful. Hey, but I'd buy season tickets just to see an aging closer-- wouldn't you?

P.S. I don't know how in the world this is possible, but if you do a google search for "outfielder", my blog is #1 on the list, which also means if you forget my URL you can go to google, type "outfielder," and hit "I'm Feeling Lucky." I guess that's not bad for a blog that's on the young side of three months.

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