Saturday, February 05, 2005

Multiplicity: The Fourth Outfielder Challenge

Taking a page out of a Michael Keaton movie I've never seen, I'm looking for folk who want to write for the Fourth Outfielder. The reasons why should be clearer in a few days.

This job description is subject to change, but here it goes:

Write one or more entries most weeks. The topic of the site is baseball in general and the Los Angeles Dodgers in particular. The site's principle methodology is applying sabermetric insight to the operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers. An interest in sabermetrics and some familiarity is required; expertise is not.

The ideal candidate will be skilled in applying baseball knowledge creatively and focusing on the interrelation of multiple concepts.

Compensation: none.

If you'd like to write here, e-mail me telling me why and what you expect to contribute. Writing samples (baseball or otherwise) are a plus, but not mandatory.

If you want to show off your skills, here are a few questions you can attempt to address to get my attention or get on my good side. Choosing one and going in-depth is probably more purposeful than attempting to briefly answer each.

1. How does Jayson Werth's disproportionate number of plate appearances against LHP last season affect his projections?

2. How much money should the Dodgers have been willing to pay Norihiro Nakamura?

3. What kind of value did the Dodgers receive on Eric Gagne's re-signing?

4. The 2005 Dodgers are in Houston and Cesar Izturis is at bat with Milton Bradley on first, none out, and Brad Lidge pitching. It's the ninth inning and the Dodgers trail 5-4. J.D. Drew is on deck with Kent, Choi, Werth, and Valentin to follow. Should Izturis bunt?

5. Rank the top eight players in the Dodgers' farm system by value.

Start your engines.

Comments:
Are you looking a free writer or an assistant GM for the Dodgers? I think anyone who can answer those questions intelligently should be making at least $50,000 a year in baseball operations. (More if you live in CA because of the state income tax!).
Stephen Bright
 
They're open-ended questions with no "right" answers. I'm looking to see how people come up with answers, not for what answers they come up with.
 
#5 and tell us your methods for predicting them.
 
Whoops, I meant that's what I'd like to see written about. I'm not talented enough with numbers to write for you.
 
I am a reader of this site and never have added any comments, but this time I thought I'd add my $0.02 for fun. I'm not a stat freak, and I suspect this one requires some knowledge of the tendencies of the players, but here goes. Bradley on first, nobody out and Izturis at bat. Lidge is pitching. J.D. Drew on deck, then Kent, Choi, etc. Lidge is a strike out pitcher. Throws somes serious heat. And he throws stikes. I'd definitely have Izturis bunt. It moves Bradley, who's got decent speed, into scoring position, and because Izturis is also quick, they'd have to make a quick play to first and wouldn't be able to think about possibly going after Bradley at second (Izturis would also be hitting from the left side, which makes him even quicker to first). Both Drew and Kent have shown an ability to get clutch hits, so that gives you two shots at tying the game. I doubt you could expect to get a sustained rally against Lidge. He's too good, so one clutch hit might be all you get, and I think Drew and/or Kent have the potential to do it. Izturis is a decent hitter (at least he was last year), so maybe he could move the runner over, but you also could end up with a force play at second (Izturis is fast enough that he might be able to avoid the dp), in which case you would still be no better off, but with 1 out. That's my take.
 
although i cant believe im saying this, but i would bunt izturis because A: he doesnt have much chance of getting onbase considering he rarely walks, and B: he's generally a ground ball hitter(he hits twice as many ground balls as fly balls) increasing the likely hood of forcing bradley out at second or a dp. Having Bradley on 2nd with 1 out is a fine situation because you have hitters coming up that can work a count. Lidge is a good pitcher with great stuff, but he's a reliever for a reason. Get him to make 15+ pitches in an inning, (wich is likely given that drew and choi are likely to draw walks) and hell make a mistake. This is exactly the kind of situation that it makes sense to bunt.

oh and,
1. Guzman 2. Billingsley 3. Martin 4. Paul 5. Hanrahan 6. Tiffany 7. LaRoche 8. Navarro
 
As with the recent signing of Kevin Lowe, the Eric Gagne signing by one of the most exemplary practioners of Moneyball, presents both sabremetrically, value oriented statsgeeks, and their critics with a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, one of moneyball's purported tenets has been that relievers, or at least "closers", are overvalued. So then, what the hell is Paul DePodesta doing agreeing to pay Eric Gagne $19 million over the next two years. Oh, sure he would have been obligated to something similar for 2005 in arbitration. But how's that explain 2006. Couldn't we get any one of a dozen relievers for $3mln/yr or so to crank out virtually the same # of innings and saves?

To answer this question, we have to ask ourselves A) what is value? and B) How do we measure that value in a reliever? For the answer to A, I'm going to rely on Mitchell Latchman, of UZR fame, who figures a win is worth $2.5 million. Frankly, as an aside, I'd qualify that a little. After all, the whole notion of VORP assumes one can get 40 some wins with 25 minor league scrubs making league minimum for a total of what, $8mln/yr or so, or $200,000/win. OTOH, I would venture by the time we get up over 90 wins, the marginal win expenditure for most teams makes the 2.5 seem more than a little stingy. But in in any case, Lets go with the 2.5. For B, up until a few weeks ago I'd still be knocking my head against the wall. Well, you say, whatta ya think they keep those save stats for? Gagne helped the Dodgers win 45 games last year! That & he's got that nasty looking cap with the goofy glasses to boot. Uh, yeah, except that for Gagne & his fellow closers, pardon me if I'm not bowled over by the fact they failed to allow more than 2 or 3 runs in their one inning stints that happened to come at the end of almost every game their team happened to be up by that amount come the 9th inning. Such, on its own is the usefulness of our save stat. Blown saves % helps some, but only some.

So, we ask, how, other than our foggy, biased, recollections do we measure our reliever's performance? And don't give me any crap about middle relievers pitching 4 innings of shutout ball when their team's already been blown out. OK then, to address the issue of which relievers really do excel in the cluth, we call on the one, the only Hardball Times STUDES and Win Probability Added. http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/authors/studes/
Check out the 3 pieces dated 12/27, 1/12, and 1/19. Bottom line is WPA takes into account the importance of game situations and innings so that a closer saving a game in which he comes in with 2 men on, 1 out in the eighth with a 4-3 score gets quite a bit more credit than the guy who pitches the ninth of a 7-4 game and "closes" the game with a final score of
7-6.

Prior to Studes publishing I think the third of these articles measuring Win Probability Added, I recall commenting on of these baseball blogs in defense of Gagne, that it could be pretty safely assumed that he had been worth in the neighborhood of 5-10 wins/yr the past two years and was well worth the $ he was getting. Well lo and behold what does our man Studes tell us. Eric, tho in second place after Brad Lidge following his incomparable 2003 season, nonetheless accounted for 5.98 wins all by himself last year. Lets call it 6. So, by my math, 6x2.5= $15mln/yr. Thus, assuming Gagne is comparable in 05 to his past two years, we'll be getting a pitcher worth $15mln/yr for $9.5 in 06, a valuation gain of about $5 million. Not bad. and I wouldn't automatically assume DePo will let our boy go to free agency when that contract expires either.

Of course, thats the good news. The bad news is that like most every other team in baseball, we are misusing our top reliever, costing both him and the team valuable additional WPA in pursuit of the almighty save. But thats a topic for another day. Hint, again see Studes.
 
1. well, of course it will affect projections because he is MUCH better vs. LHP. Having said that, I am very skeptical of almost all the projection systems for young players, and don't place a lot of weight in them in general, Werth in particular with his injury situation.

2. since he stated before he would play for 500,000, that's how much I'd pay him. At that cost, he's a low risk high reward type guy, even factoring in the posting system cost.

3. "value" is a tricky word.
You can measure it in wins, runs, revenue or market costs. It is especially hard to evaluate since typically closers work in high leverage situations. The value of a closer is also dependent on how the closer is used.
I think, however, that closers become more valuable in the playoffs. There are very few true "closers" in the game. To answer the question, I'd say the dodgers got what they paid for.
The salary is about what Gagne would've gotten thru arbitration, plus given the context and mood of the city, the positive publicity and stability in the organization has a certain monetary value as well. Despite Beltre's great season, Gagne is really the face of the franchise.

4. the best way to answer this would be to set up a simulation with the appropriate linear weights. I don't know what the weights would be, tho, nor do I know how to set up the simulation and construct the 25 by 25 transition matrix, etc. run it a million times and the best strategy should be clear.
You could also try to use win probabilities I suppose, but again, I'm not qualified to do this.

You should also specify if it is the top of the ninth or the bottom, etc.

anyways, to answer the question, the first thing I would do is pinch run Milton. Milton gets picked off a lot, is not successful stealing a lot, and has horrible baserunning in general. Having roberts would be ideal in this situation.
next, I would see how good lidge was at holding runners. his slider might be un-buntable, and a hit and run or straight steal might be easier to pull off than a sac bunt. Izzy is supposedly a good bunter, but I'm not so sure about this. My instincts would be to not let izzy bunt.

5. value in the farm is a little different, since perceived value by other teams is important, as are the needs of the major league team. off the top of my head:
1. guzman
2. billingsley
3. jackson
4. tiffany
5. miller
6. laroche
7. young/martin/navarro

you should have tangotiger and MGL write in your stead, Tom.
 
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