Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ryan Howard and baserunning, not a good combination. Part 2

Few days ago I summed up Howard's inept baserunning using a few sites that specialize in assigning run values to baserunning over the course of a season. Since many out there who don't quite understand how a skill like baserunning can be put into such simple terms, I'm going to dumb it down even further.

I find it ironic and humorous when I hear sports talk callers discuss not playing small ball or going first to third more often and then give a free pass to a player like Howard. Since people hopefully understand the concept of being able to take that extra base on a hit and the fact that it is Howard's main baserunning downfall, that's what I'll be discussing. For the sake of comparison, I'm going to use those who Howard gets compared most to- other first basemen around the league as well as two Phillies, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Fortunately, Baseball-Reference keeps track of such details.

For abbreviations:
1stS Total= Total times player on first when a single is hit.
1stS 3rd or H= Times player was on first, a single is hit and player reached third or scored
1stD Total= Total times player on first when double is hit.
1stD Home= Times player was on first, a double was hit, and player scored.
2ndS Total=  Total times player was on second when single was hit.
2ndS Home= Times player was on second, single was hit, and player scored.

Over the past two seasons:
1stS Total
1stS 3rd or H
%
1stD Total
1stD Home
%
2ndS Total
2ndS Home
%
Total extra %
Howard
44
4
9.09%
16
4
25.00%
30
9
30.00%
18.89%
Votto
76
25
32.89%
19
4
21.05%
35
17
48.57%
35.38%
Pujols
73
27
36.99%
13
1
7.69%
38
28
73.68%
45.16%
A. Gonzalez
64
8
12.50%
37
13
35.14%
41
17
41.46%
26.76%
Teixeira
55
8
14.55%
16
5
31.25%
24
13
54.17%
27.37%
Fielder
80
15
18.75%
23
5
21.74%
42
19
45.24%
26.90%
Konerko
74
6
8.11%
22
2
9.09%
17
6
35.29%
12.39%
Goldschmidt
39
10
25.64%
12
7
58.33%
32
19
59.38%
43.37%
D. Ortiz
53
8
15.09%
19
4
21.05%
34
15
44.12%
25.47%
Dunn
60
7
11.67%
15
2
13.33%
31
14
45.16%
21.70%
Rollins
72
22
30.56%
13
6
46.15%
39
29
74.36%
45.97%
Utley
34
22
64.71%
8
5
62.50%
22
17
77.27%
68.75%

Over the past two seasons, Howard is clearly worse than only Paul Konerko. If you've read Part 1, this isn't shouldn't be a surprise. I never hear anyone discuss baserunning specifically in regards to Howard, especially on talk radio, but while it is a smaller portion of a player's value compared to hitting, fielding, and position scarcity, these extra bases and less runs scored do add up.

Back in the early part of the season when the Phillies went through an awful stretch of scoring runners from third, those problems(bad luck) can be mitigated if players were able to score in the first place rather than relying on the next batter bringing him in. I realize that Howard was not a part of that time, but that does not change the point.

Talk radio and Howard diehards always fail to enlighten themselves at just how one dimensional he is, especially given his contract. But because he gets archaic RBIs, a veil is cast over their judgement. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ryan Howard and baserunning, not a good combination. Part 1

One of the popular stats going around lately is Howard's 38 RBI in his last 39 games. And that's fabulous if you're still living under a rock where you place such a heavy weight on that stat for player evaluation. A poor(for a first baseman) .240/.308/.440 line be damned! But what many of his staunch believers forget or simply don't realize is how much of his value as a player is brought down by defense and baserunning. This post focuses on the latter.

Many people don't realize how bad of a baserunner Howard actually is because he seldom seems to make a mistake. You certainly won't see him get picked off or caught stealing compared to other players. People tend to remember those events more than getting thrown out on a first to third or tagging up from third. I remember several times sports talk callers complaining about mistakes on the bases by Jayson Werth or Shane Victorino. While Howard doesn't make those mistakes, he loses value by simply being unable to run the bases proficiently.

Several sites use varying methods in placing a run total toward baserunning contributions, but all are in agreement toward Howard. Sean Smith's formula, featured on Baseball-Reference, shows Howard costing the team runs each year since 2005. This year would be his worst to date, costing the team 2 runs already in just 63 games. If he was getting on base at a similar frequency as past year's, that number could even be higher. In his system, among starting first basemen, Howard is last per plate appearance. If your curious about last year, only Paul Konerko and Prince Fielder were worse than Howard. However, each of those reach based at a much higher rate.

Baseball Prospectus' base running runs(BRR) paints the same picture. Among those with at least 50 baserunning opportunities, Howard is third worst per opportunity. Only Jesus Montero and Miguel Montero are worse. If he had the same amount of opportunities as last year, when he led all of baseball in total negative runs, he'd cost the team 10.8 runs, or about one win.

Fangraphs' system, which doesn't include stolen bases and caught stealing, may dislike Howard's baserunning ability, or lack thereof, the most. Despite his limited amount of games, his -4.6 runs is 7th worst. If he had as many plate appearances as David Ortiz, who currently sits last, Howard would be almost a full run worse. Again, last year wasn't any different. His -9.0 runs was second to only Paul Konerko.

Part 2 to be continued.....

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Phills Hitters: Hot and Cold over the past month

HOT:
John Mayberry: .351/.434/.567  .425 wOBA
For the second year in a row Mayberry has shown an ability to improve as the season goes. While his .372 BABIP over the last 30 days certainly aided his numbers, his rise in walk-rate(12.4%) and drop in strikeout-rate(13.3%) is very impressive. Meanwhile his power(.216 ISO) is what many expected coming into this season.

Jimmy Rollins: .259/.307/.474   .346 wOBA
While his average and on-base numbers are similar to his season line, his six homers leads the team through the past month. With the season almost complete, Rollins is well on his way proving he's worth his contract.

Kevin Frandsen: .363/.420/.413   .367 wOBA
Aside from Ruiz's paltry 13 plate appearances, Frandsen leads the team in average over the past month. The bad news for Frandsen fans is his surge is entirely aided by an extremely fortunate BABIP(.426).


NOT:
Ryan Howard: .252/.325/.402   .296 wOBA
While his strikeouts have lowered over the last month, everything else has been awful. You can't even blame an unlucky BABIP. In fact, at .343, it's actually higher than it probably should. Among first baseman with at least 100 plate appearances in that time span, his wOBA is ahead of only Carlos Lee and Brett Wallace while his fWAR is dead last thanks to poor fielding and baserunning.

Michael Martinez: .190/.209/.310   .213 wOBA
I debated whether or not to include Martinez because it really isn't that far off from what his actually skill set may be. However, his line was too bad to not mention.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Phillies trade Polanco for Polanco, fans rejoice.

Two players....
Player A: .269/.323/.334. 7.1 BB%  8.1 K%
Player B: .260/.317/.346. 5.4 BB%  8.4 K%

They are remarkably similar. Yet in fans' minds, one is completely washed up while the other deserves the opportunity play third base full time next year. Player A is Placido Polanco since 2011. Player B is Kevin Frandsen's career numbers. The difference between the two this year? Frandsen owns an extremely high and unsustainable .365 BABIP. That's almost 100 points higher than his career norm.

You would figure people learned not to trust such small sample sizes in judging players "earning" a starting spot. Like John Mayberry last year, Frandsen's suspect major and minor league career numbers suggest he's nothing more than a bench guy and certainly not an everyday starter.

Even though a hitter's BABIP doesn't become reliable until 1126 plate appearances, there's a far greater chance his career BABIP is closer to his true talent level than the current season's rate accrued in 139 PAs. Last year, Fangraphs debuted a nice little tool to calculate a player's wRC+ adjusting for various such as BABIP, K%, and BB%. Given his current 117 wRC+, .365 BABIP, and adjusting to Frandsen's career .267 BABIP, it comes up with a much lower and more paltry 76 wRC+.

That difference moves him from the current range of Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Pedro Alvarez, and Ryan Zimmerman's of the world to the more appropriate Darwin Barney, Alexei Ramirez, Dustin Ackley, and Mike Aviles group. However, many will argue he's somewhere in between his current level and his career baseline, as if starting everyday will outweigh the disadvantage of being past his prime. But for the sake of argument, if his true talent level now is that of a .300 BABIP hitter, it still equals out to a 87 wRC+ hitter- the equivalent of Placido Polanco in 2011.

The difference between the two however is health and defense. While Frandsen is the more durable player, his defense is pretty average.

It's also ironic all you hear from the talk radio community is that you must a power hitting third baseman.  Yet, Frandsen, the complete opposite of that, appears acceptable for next year's starting third baseman. While I don't believe Frandsen has proved worthy of that honor, he should still provide cheap value as a bench player.