Tagged: Soulfood Stats Cafe 2006

A Hard Look at Jose Castillo – Turning the DP

This is Part III of the A Hard Look at Jose Castillo series. Part I is here [link] and Part II is here [link].

A follow up article after Castillo lost his starting job is here: [link].

One of the comments made by reader "rick" about my evaluation in Part II was this:

"As far as zone rating goes, my point isn’t that Castillo’s got worse last year. My point is that Castillo’s is consistently bad. And I disagree with your analysis of zone rating. It isn’t perfect, but it’s good."

It’s a great point and one I want to address. One of the best discussions ever held on the Internet about the limitations of STATS, Inc’s Zone Rating (ZR) was in 2005 at The Baseball Think Factory [link]. Not only was ZR explained in detail, many of the web’s most talented, and well known, sabermetric analysts talked openly about its limitations.

Over the last few years, many statheads have drifted to John Dewan’s Fielding Bible as a better ZR source because he eliminates as many of the limitations as possible. He does such a good job, almost all of the teams now rely on his work as a primary source of information outside of their own in-house statistics programs, and Bill James incorporated them into his Handbook starting in 2006.

As such, how did Castillo fare in ZR under Dewan’s system in 2005 and 2006? He actually improved.. a .773 ZR in 2005 to a .777 ZR in 2006 [link to Hardball Times]. The median ZR for all 2B in MLB with 300+ innings at the position from 2004 – 2006 is .815, so Castillo was -.038 in 2006.

What does that -.038 mean? It stands for 3.8% fewer balls in play into Castillo’s zone being turned into an out than the average MLB second baseman. Or, the equivalent of 12 fewer outs (309 Balls in zone * .038) than the league average 2B.

However, Dewan’s ZR doesn’t give credit for double plays and you need to know that Castillo’s 69 double plays turned (DPT) in 2006 was not only the third highest number turned between 2004 and 2006 [link], it was 25 above the 2004 – 2006 median second baseman. Setting that off even more is the fact Castillo only saw 30 more balls in the zone than the average second baseman over the three years.

That’s extremely impressive.

The 25 extra double plays turned converts a much higher out total than the 12 lost above by his slower foot work in the zone. I hear you, why couldn’t he have both? Few players are that perfect, but remember, Castillo only has 2.3 MLB years experience (games played divided by 162). Give him time to develop.

When we revisit the suggestion made by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Stat Geek [link] the other day that Castillo was seemingly the problem why Jack Wilson didn’t turn as many double plays in 2006, we have to look at what opportunities Castillo had to start a double play to Wilson in 2006.

We saw in the Hardball Times link above that Castillo started 7 more double plays in 2006 than 2005, but played about 400 more innings. First, the 2004-2006 league average second baseman started a double play one time for every 10.2 balls in his zone. Castillo started one every 7.9 in 2006, and 7.8 in 2005.

The fact Castillo was 22% better than the 2004-2006 league average second baseman starting double plays to begin with, makes it almost ridiculous to even wonder why Wilson had fewer double plays turned. But I dug anyway just to see what I could find out just because the Stat Geek was wondering.

Wilson had 62 double plays started in 2005 and just 34 in 2006.. a decline of 28. But he also played 280 innings less. Normalized by the number of opportunities Castillo had to start a double play (ie: less than 2 outs, man at 1B, ground ball hit to Castillo, and Wilson playing SS), Jack Wilson turned 9 fewer double plays in 2006 than in 2005 with Castillo.

So what happened?

Castillo had 102 double play opportunities with Wilson in 2006 and they turned 62.5% successfully, and 76 opportunities in 2005 and turned 57.5%.

However, Castillo did have 9% fewer 4-6 double play starts with Wilson in 2006 as a percentage of his double play opportunities. Part of that 9% was in 4% more outs obtained by Castillo throwing to 1B instead of to Wilson to start a double play.. one time every 2.4 DP opportunity in 2006 vs one every 2.6 in 2005. The mean difference was 5 more.

The other 5% lost was in more singles obtained on ground balls hit to Castillo.. one every 15.2 DP opportunity in 2005 vs one every 8.5 in 2006. The mean difference was 6 more singles allowed.

That 9% shift represented 11 fewer double play starts to Wilson which pretty much explains why Wilson saw his 9 less double plays turned with Castillo. The question now is, why these two events occurred.

Castillo also saw an 11% drop in the number of DP opportunities with a right hand pitcher on the mound in 2006. That’s important because our right hand pitchers have been primarily power oriented pitchers, as compared to our soft tossing southpaws. When I looked at the success rate in MLB of a second baseman starting a double play in 2006 with a righty on the mound, the rate soared above southpaws almost 23%. The obvious reason for that is that balls put in play off a power pitcher are typically hit crisper than from finesse pitchers.

While researching that tidbit I came across Freddy Sanchez’s double play started rate in 2006 and saw it was 25% better than Castillo’s. I quickly found out the reason – Jim Tracy put Freddy at second with a righty on the mound 60% of the time and he benefited from that with a 33% better double play started rate. So when you compare Castillo to Sanchez turning double plays in 2006, you won’t be comparing apples to apples.

The higher single rate allowed by Castillo seemed to be a direct result of balls in play from southpaws because Castillo had 12 total singles allowed in 2006 and 9 of them were from left hand pitchers. In 2005, only 1 of the 5 singles were. So perhaps they were from lite grounders or balls in play up deep up the middle Castillo got a glove on? I don’t know because I didn’t research all 9 to see.

The bottom line is, while Wilson did turn 9 less less double plays in 2006 than in 2005, you have to be hard pressed to even be worrying about a trivial 9 fewer Jack Wilson double play starts when Castillo’s double play start rate in 2006 was 22% better than league average to begin with. But if you want to blame Castillo, be sure to also consider the change in the distribution of balls in play from southpaws.

As for reader "rick" suggesting Castillo is ‘consistently bad’, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Bad is too vague a term for me. I mean, if 11 fewer DP starts to Wilson is bad, so be it. If Castillo seems ‘aloof’ or ‘lazy’ to the fans, it’s pretty obvious by his statistics in this three-part series he is performing above average in many fielding categories, so what relevance is there to the observation? If you want to complain about 18 errors, then you haven’t read the series. And let’s face it, fielding percentage is almost a worthless stat.

Wrapping up this series I’ll just say that Jose Castillo is far from the best overall fielding second baseman in the game. However, he is one of the best pivot man in the game despite his limited 2.3 years of MLB experience. While his footwork in the zone might be a tad slow, the increased productivity from his cannon arm and pivot far exceeds that lost from his slower ground work.

Now all we can do is pray he finds some more plate discipline, learns better pitch recognition, and continues to mature as a hitter. My bet is that he is about a year or two from breaking out into becoming a solid .280 hitter or better with 20 home runs and above-average defense.


A Hard Look at Jose Castillo – 2006 Errors

This is Part II of the Hard Look at Jose Castillo series. Part I is here: [link].

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an article today where they speculated whether or not the 2007 team would be better defensively than last year’s team [link]. One of the statements made in the article by the Pirates beat reporter was:

"Assuming Jose Castillo keeps his job at second base, it is hard to imagine him making 18 errors again, including, amazingly for someone at his position, 15 on throws."

First, the reporter’s statement is factually incorrect — Castillo had three throwing errors last year. I assume the reporter just read his notes wrong. Jack Wilson actually had 3 times as many throwing errors as Jose Castillo did.

Secondly, while we know Castillo made 18 errors last year, nobody seems to know what kind of errors they were. And more importantly, if the errors were the type that any second baseman should have made or not.

Only five second baseman in MLB had 700 or more total chances last year and they averaged 16 errors each, with just one player having less than 14.

Castillo had 8 ground ball errors of the 18 he made — that’s 44%, which ranked him in the 46th percentile of all qualified second baseman (# of Error Type/# Errors Overall). So, in fact, he wasn’t among the worst second basemen fielding ground balls in baseball last year as had been speculated by one writer [link].

Of the eight ground ball fielding errors Castillo made, five were routine grounders he should have handled, two were semi-tough in that the direction of the ball changed within five feet of him, and one took a crazy hop that very few players on planet Earth could have made a play on.

Castillo also had six dropped ball errors. Three of the six were routine plays he should have made.

Two of dropped ball errors were initially charged to other players and later in the year given to Castillo – one was charged to Paulino for bouncing a throw in the dirt to Castillo while covering second on an attempted base steal, and the other was a throw by Sanchez in the dirt while Castillo covered 1B.

The last dropped ball error was charged to Castillo but should have been charged to Jack Wilson as a throwing error, as the throw to Castillo was at his shoestrings while he was covering 2B for a force out.

Then Castillo was charged with three throwing errors on plays where other defenders failed to catch the ball thrown to them. If Castillo should be charged with all six dropped ball errors above from poor throws to him, then I don’t know how he could be charged with throwing catchable balls to other players who failed to at least block the ball.

The first throwing error was a one hopper to Craig Wilson covering first on a nice stop by Castillo who had to throw off balance. But the ball bounced and took a long hop – five foot or more – and came to Wilson knee high or better, but it went off the heel of his glove and Castillo was given the error.

The second throwing error was on a relay throw to the plate and Paulino didn’t even attempt to block the ball that hit right near his feet. While the throw might not have been catchable before the bounce, it was easily a blockable ball and the error should have been on Paulino, not Castillo.

The last throwing error there is no video of and I don’t know what happened except hearing the announcers state that the ball bounced past Sanchez, so I have to assume this was Castillo’s error.

The very last error Castillo made for the year was on a pop up to short right field where Castillo was backing up trying to catch the ball, Burnitz was in a position to catch it but didn’t call Castillo off and Castillo couldn’t see him, and the ball came down hitting Castillo’s mitt and bounced out. It’s a legitimate error called by the official scorer but it’s a tough error for him to have to eat.

A total of five runs directly scored from Castillo’s 18 errors. One from Castillo’s relay throw to Sanchez covering 3B, one run from the failed catch by Craig Wilson, one run when Castillo covered 1B and Sanchez threw the ball in the dirt, and two runs, one from each on the ground ball plays where the direction of the ball changed in the last five feet.

There’s no question that Jose Castillo made a lot of seemingly silly errors. The fact 9 of his 18 errors were made on days after the team had a day off  suggests that Castillo might not be able to get his concentration level up to speed after an off day. Further suggesting a concentration issue is that Castillo commited two errors in one game three times, for 33% of his total errors.

At the same time, we know Castillo started the year off out of shape after Dave Littlefield asked him not to work out over the winter since he had a torn MCL he was healing. And we also know Littlefield rejected Castillo’s plea to play in the World Baseball Classic to help him get in shape.

To that end, 66% of Castillo’s errors were made in the first half of the season and just one of the six errors in the second half were of the routine variety. So there’s no question Castillo tightened his game in the second half.

I have included video below showing every error Castillo was charged with so you can make your own decisions. Here is the official scorers rules on errors from the MLB rule book [link].

Every second baseman gets judged by the same rules, so in that regard Castillo received equal treatment. Yet, I don’t care who you are, and I don’t care how conservatively you view the errors he was charged with watching the video, you’ll be hard pressed to find 18 legitimate errors. 14 maybe.. but 12 or less is probably correct.

After you decide how many errors he deserved, remember that the other five players in MLB last year who had 700 or more total chances averaged 15.5 errors each.

As you listen to the video, listen closely to Gregg Brown and Lanny Frattare as they talk about Castillo and compare their attitude to the tone Castillo receives from the local beat reporters. Then listen to the tone of ex-players John Wehner and Bob Walk in comparison.

Then also remember that at least two (possibly as many as four) errors were originally charged to other players by official scorers and then changed later in the year and given to Castillo, along with the knowledge that the front office of every team has the right to appeal to MLB any official scorer decision.

It’s enough to make you start wondering if someone has it out for Castillo, and why. Here’s Castillo’s error reel:

Test Time: What’s Bay’s GPA?

Alan Schwarz penned a nice article in the New York Times the other day about a high school student from Bloomington, Minnesota, named Victor Wang [link].

The sixteen year-old determined that OPS was misleading when used to try and determine why a team scored as many runs as they did in any given year. He concluded that a weighted OPS system was better and found that 1.8 times OBP plus SLG correlated more closely in determining which players helped their team the most to score runs.

In the book Moneyball, OBP was said to be worth 3 times as much as SLG, so this discovery is somewhat new wave.

When you take Wang’s weighted OBP(*1.8) + SLG result and then divide by 4, you get a new stat sweeping sabermetric land called GPA, or Gross Production Average. The end result of GPA looks much like batting average — .360 is very good, .265 is about average, and .200 is horrible.

The true value of GPA is significantly more important than OPS because it is more accurate in equally comparing players team-to-team on their ability to contribute to runs scored.

Here are a few of the 2006 Pirates GPA’s for 2006:

Bay 0.310 Wilson 0.234
Sanchez 0.288 Burnitz 0.232
Paulino 0.260 Castillo 0.229
Nady 0.259 Doumit 0.223
Bautista 0.246 McLouth 0.223
Randa 0.241 Duffy 0.218

As you can see, we only had two players above average – Bay and Sanchez. Adam LaRoche had a .300 GPA last year so you can see how valuable he is to the Pirates if he can maintain his production. But that still only makes three players above average on the team.

To give you some context, here are the Brewers top 12 — again, of batters with more than 200 at bats:

Hall, Bill 0.294 Jenkins, Geoff 0.264
Gross, Gabe 0.290 Graffanino, Tony 0.254
Koskie, Corey 0.274 Weeks, Rickie 0.251
Fielder, Prince 0.273 Bell, David 0.251
Cirillo, Jeff 0.270 Mench, Kevin 0.245
Hart, Corey 0.266 Miller, Damian 0.241

They had six players above the .265 average scale, and a seventh just at it.

The Reds had five players above .265, the Cubs had four players above, and the Cardinals and Astros both had five with two above .300 each.

And here are the top 16 from the National League with 200 or more at bats in 2006:

Pujols, Albert STL 0.361 Atkins, Garrett COL 0.322
Howard, Ryan PHI 0.354 Johnson, Nick WAS 0.318
Berkman, Lance HOU 0.345 McCann, Brian ATL 0.318
Scott, Luke HOU 0.343 Helms, Wes FLA 0.316
Bonds, Barry SF 0.336 Holliday, Matt COL 0.315
Jones, Chipper ATL 0.334 Bard, Josh SD 0.313
Cabrera, Miguel FLA 0.333 Bay, Jason PIT 0.310
Beltran, Carlos NYM 0.323 Duncan, Chris STL 0.310

While the top players closely resembled the OPS leader board last year, when you get below .300 it becomes a lot more obvious who was marginal and who helped their team to put up runs.

It’s not just power you think of with GPA, although it will seem that way. It is the ability of a player to get on base times 1.8, coupled with power. But that’s not all encompassing.

For instance, Chris Duffy looks pretty weak with his .218 GPA above, and he was weak by the GPA standard. But guess who had a higher average in runs scored per game last year – Duffy or Sanchez? Right – Duffy at .548 to Sanchez’s .541.

So GPA has to be looked at with all other available stats to make a final determination on who helped the most, although GPA goes a long way toward being more meaningful to the senses than OPS does, as Schwarz mentioned.

Lineup Construction by Pitcher Type?

Over the last few days I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with a long time NL front office exec. At one point the conversation turned to how well the Pirates did in the second half last year and I stated I thought it was primarily because of better defense behind better pitching. He agreed defense was the primary reason.

But then he told me there was another explanation – one that was just as important because it created a lot more luck for the Pirates than they were able to put together in the first half. It was a reason I hadn’t heard before, and one that took me by surprise.

Bench match ups.

Taken aback, I wanted to know more. He said, do you think it was a coincidence that the team started winning more after Xavier Nady became a Pirate and Chris Duffy came back? I said I thought it was. In 2 minutes he showed me why it might not have been such a coincidence, and I’m going to try and explain those two minutes to you today.

He started off by telling me that as of June 29th last year, the Pirates lead off batter had the 6th best OBP in the National League, and 14th best in baseball. Chris Duffy had left about May 1st and Jose Bautista had been leading off. But the team had only won 27 games of the first 80 they had played.

That was a curious stat, he said, because the winning percentage of the 13 teams with OBP higher than the Pirates was .535, or .519 in the NL only. One reason the Pirates lost so many of those games was because our lead off batter had unproductive OBP.

Unproductive OBP, I muttered?

Sure, he said, the Pirates had the 5th highest number of lead off batter strikeouts in baseball and the 4th fewest number of walks. While the Pirates did had the 13th best lead off batter OPS on June 29th, it was useless OPS because most of the production came with few men on base.

Oh, I said, as a little light went off in my head.

In other words, he declared, the Pirates were spinning their wheels at the top of the order. After the break, that changed and he showed me how.

ESPN has a great statistic they keep that is often over looked – how batters do against certain pitcher types. For instance, if you follow this link and scroll down to the "By Pitcher" area, you’ll see that Jason Bay has a career .913 OPS against power pitcher types. At the very bottom of that same page, ESPN shows you how they define each type.

When Nady was obtained and Duffy came back on to the roster, the exec went on to say, Tracy had the ability to better match up his available players against the type of pitcher the team was facing that day. While this availability didn’t provide more runs scored than runs allowed over the second half, it played a huge role in their ability to win.

Before Nady was obtained, the only other person the Pirates had on their roster that could hit a finesse pitcher was Jose Bautista. When you compare Bautista’s June production when he faced a lot of ground ball/finesse type pitchers, to his August when he faced more power pitchers, you’ll see the difference real quick.. a .639 OPS vs a .910 OPS.

I said I had thought all along that the reason for most of the ups and downs in the Pirates production was because of streakiness of the players. He agreed it was, to some degree. But there is usually a reason for the streakiness, he declared. One of those reasons is feeling comfortable in the box against who you are facing, especially for younger players.

There you go.. one more person’s take on why the Pirates did so well in the second half. So I took his idea one step further – I broke down most of the players on the roster against each of the main four pitcher types – power, finesse, ground ball, and fly ball, and here is the result:

FB GB Finesse Power
Bautista – Bautista + Bautista + Bautista –
McLouth + McLouth – McLouth – McLouth +
Castillo + Castillo – Castillo – Castillo –
Nady + Nady – Nady + Nady –
LaRoche – LaRoche slg+ rest- LaRoche – LaRoche slg+ rest-
Wilson – Wilson + Wilson + Wilson +
Bay slg+ rest+/- Bay ++ Bay +/- Bay ++
Doumit slg+ rest- Doumit – Doumit + Doumit BA- rest+
Hernandez – Hernandez – Hernandez + Hernandez –
Duffy + Duffy – Duffy – Duffy +

A plus sign means the player hits that pitcher type better than not, a minus is just the opposite. The "+/-" sign means a neutral ability and you’ll see that some players either hit the ball out of the park, or don’t do anything against some pitchers. That is marked with a "slg+ rest-" sign.

I then put together proposed lineups based on the pitcher type we might face on any given day:

FB GB Finesse Power Others
Duffy Duffy Duffy Duffy Duffy
Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson
Sanchez Sanchez Sanchez Sanchez Sanchez
Bay Bay Bay Bay LaRoche
LaRoche LaRoche Nady LaRoche Bay
Paulino Bautista Bautista Paulino Nady
Castillo Paulino Paulino Castillo Paulino
McLouth Castillo Hernandez McLouth Castillo

Notice that LaRoche gets his days off against finesse pitching, with Nady taking 1B and Bautista playing RF. Hernandez also starts at 2B that day. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get Castillo out enough, like against power pitchers, because there wasn’t a better replacement for him, offensively or defensively. And Doumit never played a game because he simply lacks a position to play.

I also have Bay batting 4th more often than not. You can be sure Jim Tracy won’t do that but he might consider it.

The end result won’t be that the Pirates score a ton of runs. Instead, this proposal suggests it might create more luck than not, and luck is what propels us each year.

For those that want to create a cheat sheet, I have prepared a list of each of the five NLCD team starters and rated them based on the type pitcher they are. For instance, Jeff Suppan is rated a 9 in finesse. I simply divide 9 by the 411 finesse pitchers in the pool and subtract the result from 1.0 to get the percentile he is in.

In Suppan’s case, that is the 98th percentile and a sure bet Jim Tracy is going to look hard at matching up his players to face him. At about the 60th percentile, you might start seeing less of a concern from Tracy on matching up his players and instead worrying about who is seeing the ball better that day.

Notice I didn’t list fly ball pitchers. That is because so few rated out as a FB pitcher using the five year requirement ESPN uses to qualify them.

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How Important Are Repetitive At Bats?

We often hear that "X" player would do much better if he just got repetitive at bats. That thought always conflicted with what I was told as a player years ago by my old baseball coach – that good players hit, no matter what.

So I went over to Baseball-Reference.com and looked up the statistics on our main position players from 2001-2006 to see what I could find out. I decided to use 3 plate appearances per game as the key and then made my cut at 10 consecutive games.

I ended up with two groups.. the first group had the stats for each time period a player played 11 or more consecutive games where he had 3 or more plate appearances per game, and the second group had all the time periods with less than 3 appearances or less than 10 consecutive games played.

To give you an idea of what I ended up with, between 2001-2006 Jason Bay had 7 time periods where he didn’t get 11 or more consecutive games of 3 or more plate appearances, and 6 where he did [link].

ConsecbaThis first chart shows the overall batting average for each player, in each group.

For instance, when Freddy Sanchez had 11 or more (>=11) consecutive games of 3 or more plate appearances, he batted .327 in 796 at bats.

When he didn’t get 3 or more plate appearances in 11 or more games, or didn’t play in at least 11 consecutive games, his batting average fell to .286.

So with Freddy, my coach’s statement that ‘good hitter’s hit no matter what’ seems true. But the repetitive at bat theory holds water here too.

However, look at Jason Bay. He hit .290 or better in both groups, despite having only 85 at bats in the <=10 group. So much for the repetitive at bats theory with him but my coach’s theory still held water.

How about Adam LaRoche.. in his case, repetitive at bats significantly enhanced his batting average. If my old coach is right about good hitter’s, then perhaps there is some bias in the >=11 games at bats LaRoche did get, like against mainly right-hand pitching? It’s certainly possible because he was obviously platooned a lot based on the at bat splits in the two groups, and he didn’t hit anywhere near as well in the <=10 games group.

No matter, even when not getting consecutive at bats, LaRoche’s .268 batting average was still as good or better than 6 of the remaining 10 players who did get repetitive at bats. For the Pirates, anyway, it really doesn’t matter.

So the repetitive at bat theory seems to be true for marginal players, and the statement that good hitter’s hit no matter what seems to be true for better hitters. At least that is what the first chart seems to indicate.

What’s going on with Duffy above? I haven’t a clue except to guess his split is due to how often he was platooned when first called up. And poor Nate McLouth, he has yet to play 11 consecutive games getting three or more plate appearances.

At this point I threw away the <=10 group and concentrated on the >=11 games group to see who the leaders were in various categories. Remember now, each player had multiple time periods of >=11 games, so the chart below lists the top 5 and bottom 5 time period results for each category.

Realize that a consecutive time period can end the last game of the year and continue with the first game the next year. The start and end columns are the time period dates.


Stats Geek Pointed a Crooked Finger

Yesterday’s Stats Geek article in the Post-Gazette [link] had this statement:

"Another clue that last year’s [double play rate] drop was more Castillo’s fault is that he played the equivalent of 139 nine-inning games, the most by far in his career, and Wilson played 127, the fewest since his rookie year."

The Stats Geek essentially stated that it was more Castillo’s fault that fewer double plays were turned last year by Jack Wilson. I was curious if his analysis was true so I spun up my SPSS and plugged in Retrosheet’s data for 2006 [link]. 

I decided to test the statement measuring the result of the two most basic scenarios in baseball where a shortstop and second baseman have to work together to create a double play:

1) Runner at 1B with 2B empty, less than 2 outs, and a ground ball is hit to either player; and

2) Runners at 1B and 2B, less than 2 outs, and a ground ball is hit to either player.

I made sure Wilson and Castillo were on the field together and I decided to normalize the results by adding back in the percentage of errors made by the other player.

The results:

CHC Finse Pwr GB MIL Finse Pwr GB
Zambrano 101 110 Sheets 570
Lilly 90 Capuano 551
Marquis 90 170 Suppan 9 167
Hill 421 Vargas 497
Prior 47 Bush 66 296
Miller 33
Marshall 262 STL
Guzman 207 Carpenter 79
Mateo 159 523 290 Reyes 65
Wainwright 285 542 205
CIN Wells 339 161 188
Harang 142 660 332 Franklin 58 391
Arroyo 174 Looper 677 63
Runner 1B Only Other Player’s Rate
DP Made Error Rate Total
MLB Median 2B 96.3% 0.9% 97.2%
Castillo 95.5% 1.9% 97.4%
difference -0.8% 1.0% 0.2%
MLB Median SS 54.7% 0.9% 55.6%
Wilson 68.5% 0.0% 68.5%
difference 13.8% -0.9% 12.9%
Runner 1B & 2B Other Player’s Rate
DP Made Error Rate Total
MLB Median 2B 93.4% 2.5% 95.9%
Castillo 83.3% 8.3% 91.6%
difference -10.1% 5.8% -4.3%
MLB Median SS 59.3% 1.2% 60.5%
Wilson 62.5% 0.0% 62.5%
difference 3.2% -1.2% 2.0%

Castillo showed his weakness when there was a man at 1B and 2B – he ended up with a normalized rate -4.3% below the league average second baseman last year. And that was despite adding back in Wilson’s 8.3% error rate on his plays.

But the value difference between -4.3% and the league average of 0 is just 1/2 an error. That’s right.. 1/2 an error. As it turns out, the only other error made was by Castillo himself.

Jack Wilson, on the other hand, came out smelling like roses turning double plays just as the Stats Geek suggested he might. With a runner at only 1B, he was 12.9% better than a normalized league average shortstop, and 2% better with men on 1B and 2B.

It’s true that Wilson’s INN/DP did drop 19% in 2006 from 2005.. the equivalent of 17 fewer turned. The Geek didn’t tell us why Wilson’s double play rate dropped last year other than to suggest it was Castillo’s fault.

But that simply isn’t true. Here’s a few reasons why:

1) Jack Wilson had a .837 Zone Rating in 2006 versus an .885 Zone Rating in 2005, which was his career high year by a considerable .026 points. That meant Wilson reached 6% fewer balls in his zone last year resulting in 38 more balls in play floating past him to the outfield. Castillo reached 0.8% less.. just 5 fewer than his 2005 season average which is pretty steady gloving year-to-year.

When you consider Wilson turned a DP every 7.4 total chances he had in his zone in 2006, that meant he lost 5 double plays simply because he didn’t stop the ball.

That’s not Castillo’s fault.

2) Wilson committed one error every 63 innings last year versus one every 93 innings in 2005 resulting in 7 additional errors in 2006 when you normalize innings played. Castillo’s error rate was 1 every 69 innings in 2006 versus 1 every 70 innings in 2005. That is also fairly stable work.

But 5 of Wilson’s 18 errors came when he was turning a double play last year versus just 1 in 2005. That’s four more he lost.

That’s not Castillo’s fault either.

While Wilson might have made 17 less double plays in 2006, we’ve identified no less than 9 being his own fault, and that’s more than half. Plus, we haven’t even looked at all the other variables that influenced Wilson’s inability to produce double plays from his 2005 rate.

Yet, consider this — Jack Wilson turned one double play every 12.8 innings last year and, of the 24 qualified shortstops in baseball who played more than 998 innings, Wilson’s INN/DP rate was still 11% above league average [link].

Comparatively, Wilson was 22% above league average turning double plays in 2005. But guess what, if you add the nine we know he missed in 2006 to the 88 he did turn, Wilson’s 2006 DP rate would jump all the way to 19% above league average, just 3% short of his 2005 rate.

But hold on, there’s even more – the league average double play rate for the 24 qualified shortstops in 2006 decreased by 5% from 2005.

No matter how you look at it, Wilson’s DP rate in 2006 was excellent considering his error rate and zone rating. Still, Castillo played steady league average defense both years.

Therefore, the Stats Geek should have been pointing the accusing finger toward Jack Wilson on the left-side of the diamond, not Castillo on the right-side of the diamond, if a finger was raised and pointed any where at all.

Besides, since the Wilson/Castillo team actually produced double plays well above league average rate last year, I’m not so sure I understand why anyone is even pointing a finger at all.

The Stats Geek then said:

"On fielding ground balls, however, Wilson is among the best and Castillo the worst.."

I’ll stop right here because that statement is so overgeneralized it isn’t even worth debating. I love the Geek’s articles, but sometimes. . .

Torres: Closer or Clunker?

After I looked at Salomon Torres as a potential closer last week [link], I received a lot of email asking me to look harder at Torres in a few areas. Specifically, everyone wanted to know how he had done over the years closing games out as well as when he came into a game starting the inning off.

That made a lot of sense.

I also received a couple of emails from folks in the game suggesting that I look harder at Torres when pitching at home versus away because I had painted Torres as a poor reliever on the road, which none of them believed was true.

This article looks at all three of those suggestions. I used Retrosheet’s wonderful data for the statistics for this article [link].

Let’s begin by looking at Torres when he started an inning off in a game. That chart is below:

Chart Notes: the Earned Runs Allowed column includes runners that were bequest to a reliever and who ultimately scored earned, and the Middle Inn Flag tells us how many times Torres had to be relieved in the middle of an inning.

You can see that the emails I received from those in the game had validity because Torres had a 0.36 / 0.18 split on runs allowed per game in home and away games 2005-2006. That’s huge, just as they suggested.

We can also see that Torres had a 0.06 reduction in runs allowed per game from 2005 to 2006. Just as interesting is the 20% rate Torres was removed in the middle of an inning between 2005-2006.

Now, let’s look at how Torres has done closing out games:

Here we see the same significant split in home and away games between 2005 and 2006. In fact, the rate is nearly three times higher. That is even higher than in the first chart where the split was double.

You will also notice the significant drop in the runs allowed per game between 2005 and 2006 – a 50% decrease primarily because he closed 16% fewer games at home in 2006.

If we compare the year 2006 in both charts, we see Torres allowed 0.25 runs per game in both, so it’s a good bet he’s going to be close to that in 2007 if he closes both home and away games.

With these figures in hand, let’s project how Torres will do closing if he appears in 65 games.. 65 games times 0.25 runs allowed = 16 runs projected for the year. Twelve of the sixteen should be from away games at the 2-1 ratio we found above.

That sounds pretty good until you consider that Mike Gonzalez only gave up 2 earned runs in the 24 games he saved last year (that would be the equivalent of 5.4 runs over 65 games).

As a better example, you might remember cringing everytime you saw Jose Mesa heading toward the mound to close a game in 2004? He only allowed 13 runs over the 65 games he finished that year. But do you remember telling yourself in 2004: if we aren’t winning by more than two runs when Mesa takes the mound, we’ll probably lose?

Many fans did.

Torres has considerably better numbers on the road as we saw above. In 24 games, he gave up just 5 runs last year when finishing a game. But even that rate of runs allowed is 2 1/2 times higher than Gonzalez’s last year.

That’s not good folks. Considering this team figures to play a lot of close games, that’s even more concerning.

No matter how you slice it or dice it, the fans seem to be in for a nail-biting year in tight games with Torres closing for us, especially at home.

There are some variables that could influence how well Torres performs next year, and some of those might be swinging in our favor more so than in previous years — the team could play better defensive behind our closer, we could have more of a lead in the 9th, or we just might find more luck.

Of course, Cam Bonifay was fired as the General Manager in 2001 waiting for those exact same events to occur, and his replacement, Dave Littlefield, has yet to experience those events in his five and one-half year tenure either.

But hey, the team’s slogan is "We Will" so maybe this is the year they finally will? We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m getting my net ready in case I happen to see a pig flying over head.