Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that was filled with heavy doses of sludging and drudging. It’s my hope that at the end of every week during the baseball season, at that moment that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to check out some random observations and contribute your own opinions to ten stray thoughts on a Friday.

So, without further ado:

The Difference In Justin Verlander

Last season, Justin Verlander went 24-5, with a 2.40 ERA. Not only was he judged to have been the best pitcher in the American League in 2011, he was named the Most Valuable Player as well. This year, Verlander is 15-8, with a 2.74 ERA. He’ll certainly receive some consideration for the Cy Young Award, and might even win, but no one is talking about in the same fashion as they were around this time last year.

That’s too bad, because he’s essentially doing the exact same things this year as last, just without the rest of his team helping him out, in terms of both offense and defense. This season, Verlander ranks 85th out of 92 qualified starting pitcher with an average run support of 3.68 per start. Last year, he was 31st out of 94, averaging 4.56 runs in support each start. Meanwhile, his BABIP last season was .236, which has risen to .272 in 2012.

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely due to bad team defense, as he has given up a larger percentage of line drives this season compared to last, but so many of his rate stats are in close proximity from year to year.

It will be interesting to see how the final two weeks of the regular season affect the American League Cy Young Award race with Verlander, David Price, Chris Sale and Jered Weaver all legitimate candidates.

On Detroit Score Keepers

In looking at Justin Verlander’s numbers, I came across something of a humorous home and away split having to do with runs and earned runs. Over the course of the 2012 season, Verlander has allowed twice as many runs on the road as he has at home, but here’s the really interesting breakdown:

  • Of the 26 runs he’s allowed at home, only 19 have been considered earned runs (73%); and
  • Of the 52 runs he’s allowed on the road, 49 have been considered earned runs (94%).

Detroit has one of the most favorable score keepers in the league when it comes to home team pitching, but 73% of runs being earned is even lower than the 88% team average. In fact, take Verlander away, and the score keeper could be deemed to be cruel to the other Tigers pitchers.

Do Errorless Streaks Deserve Honors

Obviously, score keepers from ballpark to ballpark are different in many different ways, but they are all biased. That’s not meant as a slight, it’s merely the reality. If I were to try to be as objective as I possibly could, I’d still end up being equally biased too, because objectivity when it comes to human beings is little more than an illusion.

So, as much as we might dismiss the fact that Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney hasn’t committed an error, as judged by the score keepers watching his games, since April 17th against the Miami Marlins, we can dismiss it as being the basis of nothing more than fortunate oversight, right?

Well, no. The amount of “errors” that a defender racks up is not the best method for judging his defensive abilities, but it still is a method, and no matter how flawed and subjective it might be, a minimal amount of them is probably a good thing. While I suppose it could also mean that a player with zero errors simply hasn’t tried to get the same difficult to reach batted balls that his rivals have, we can look to some of the more advanced metrics to find that in terms of both DRS and UZR, Barney ranks as the best defensive second baseman in the league.

Combine all of these factors together, and it becomes rather easy to endorse Darwin Barney for a Gold Glove award.

A Very Realistic Probability

I’ve lived in Toronto for more than a dozen years. Over that time, I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, attending anywhere between 20 and 60 games a season at Rogers Cenre. This year, I’ve been to four games.

Watching and following other teams reveals that there are few unique situations in baseball. Almost every team has the same positives and the same negatives. The circumstances might vary slightly. One team might have a shortstop a year away from making a big impact on the Major League team; another will have a catcher with similar expectations. One team can boast an amazing talent at fielding instruction; another has a first base coach who can make base runners out of anyone. It’s all very much the same sort of thing that all fan bases believe to be a situation unique to their team.

While this has caused a slight wane in my interest in the Blue Jays this season, and so too, has this rather dismal season for the team, I think the largest contributing factor to my sudden distaste for Major League Baseball in Toronto has been visiting other baseball stadiums in the United States. I’ve harped on this before in the past, so I’ll save the ham-fisting for another time, but watching a game at the Rogers Centre is not a very pleasant experience, whereas it is in just about any other place in North America.

That’s why it was with a tremendous amount of excitement with which I learned that Toronto’s new Triple-A Minor League affiliate will be playing out of Coca-Cola Park in Buffalo.

It’s a beautiful stadium, probably one of the prettier things in Buffalo. I wouldn’t hesitate to wager that I will attend more Triple-A games in Buffalo next season than I will MLB games in Toronto.

Kershaw The Best

I wrote earlier in this piece about how teammates seem to be affecting Justin Verlander’s consideration for awards more than his actual performances, and it should also be noted that a similar thing is happening in the National League where Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw is having an outstanding season. This is the case, despite what his 12-9 record might indicate.

The only true Cy Young Award candidates in the National League should be R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez and Kershaw. It’s interesting to me that Gonzalez, with 19 wins – the most in the league – and the best FIP among the contending pitchers, hasn’t received as much attention, even among the stats leaning crowd. Nonetheless, Gonzalez is either just a little bit ahead or significantly behind Dickey and Kershaw in most of the other important numbers. And then between those two pitchers, Kershaw appears to be superior despite his poor win/loss record and higher ERA which is explained once his HR/FB ratio is equalized.

If you don’t buy that, consider this, both Dickey and Kershaw are averaging the exact same game score for their starts this season. Also, don’t let his recent injury troubles fool you, Dickey has only pitched six more innings than Kershaw this season.

The Woeful Toronto Blue Jays

It was rather amazing earlier this week when the Toronto Blue Jays put together a lineup of players of whom only one had an on base percentage in excess of .300. Even uglier is the team’s production at the plate on the whole. In terms of batting value provided, there are only five Toronto Blue Jays who could be considered to have contributed something positive. One of those players doesn’t play for them anymore, another is a pitcher with two plate appearances and the other three are Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and David Cooper.

Every single other batter on the team has cost the team runs compared to the average when they have come to the plate this season. The worst offender has been Omar Vizquel, who Fangraphs figures to have cost the Blue Jays 9.5 runs in value.

When 63 MPH Fooled Vernon Wells

One of my favorite things in baseball is when batters are made to look foolish by pitchers. Unsurprisingly, Yu Darvish’s 63 miles per hour pitch to Vernon Wells is one of my most favourite things ever. GIF courtesy of Fangraphs.

It’s been amazing to see how much better overall Darvish is when consistently gets ahead in the count.

Popular Players

Yesterday’s five most popular player profiles at Baseball Reference were:

  1. Ichiro Suzuki
  2. Derek Jeter
  3. Miguel Cabrera
  4. Mike Trout
  5. Jeff Kent

Over at FanGraphs, the last 24 hours have seen these player profiles visited the most:

  1. Yu Darvish
  2. Mike Trout
  3. Ichiro Suzuki
  4. Miguel Cabrera
  5. Kris Medlen

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Melky Making Amends

Earlier today it was learned that Major League Baseball and the Players Association had decided to make Melky Cabrera ineligible for the National League batting title, after the San Francisco Giants outfielder requested that they do so. It’s all rather odd considering that it’s a statistical accomplishment and not something that’s decided through votes or anything subjectively.

Another strange bit to come out of the decision, was that the story was broken by San Francisco beat writer Andrew Baggarly. Such news items are usually broken by the national writers, but I suppose it’s not terrible odd for a beat writer to get a scoop of this size from time to time. However, given that it arrived in a written form and wasn’t merely tweeted out, I wonder if Baggarly got something of an advanced notice from Cabrera as a form of making amends after the player denied the reporter’s questions about testing positive before he was suspended.

Next on Melky’s list should be making it right with teammates whom he left without saying a word, after news broke of his 50 game suspension. While nothing official has been said, rumors have circulated that the Giants will not be interested in bringing Cabrera back to the team following the first round of the playoffs when he’s eligible to play again.

There’s also this: