August 15, 2014

How Improved are the 2013 Indians?

Lonnie-Chisenhall-200x300It seems like it’s been awhile since I really nerded out with a stats post. But if winters are good for anything, it’s spreadsheets and pivot tables and hastily drawn Jonclusions regarding the Indians.

Let me start by saying this clearly: I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the Indians’ off-season. Not only have they been able to add some good players—via both trade and free agency—but they’ve also managed to buy back some PR points with the fanbase. Bringing Terry Francona on was clearly a coup. Capturing a hot prospect like Trevor Bauer caused some excitement. Signing Nick Swisher to the largest free agent deal in club history sent a message that apparently needed to be sent: the club was NOT rebuilding. They were pushing forward in an attempt to win now.

And I think as fans we can all certainly feel happy about that decision. It’s nice to be reassured that your ownership and front office take winning as seriously as you do as a fan. One of the things that Craig was demanding of the new Browns’ regime was that they announce their intentions to contend immediately. Patience is a virtue, but one taken best in limited serving sizes. The Indians front office and ownership appeared to have learned their lesson. Either that, or they just didn’t have the chutzpah to blow it all up again and ask for five more years.

On the other hand, I think we might want to look a bit more critically at the team, so that we can at least manage our expectations. I also think that we’re allowed to simultaneously be happy the team is trying to contend while still wondering how in the world they think they’ll actually do it. More on that in a second.

Let’s start by pulling some standard data. The table below shows every player who appeared in a game for the Indians in 2012, along with his total fWAR (fangraphs), rWAR (housed at Baseball-Reference) and an average of the two.1

PLAYER fWAR rWAR AVG_WAR
Carlos Santana 3.4 3.7 3.6
Jason Kipnis 3.1 3.7 3.4
Asdrubal Cabrera 2.9 3.0 3.0
Shin-Soo Choo 2.6 3.1 2.9
Michael Brantley 2.7 2.9 2.8
Vinnie Pestano 1.0 2.1 1.6
Justin Masterson 2.3 0.0 1.2
Esmil Rogers 0.8 1.0 0.9
Joe Smith 0.7 0.9 0.8
Travis Hafner 0.6 0.7 0.7
Chris Perez 0.8 0.5 0.7
Ezequiel Carrera 0.2 0.5 0.4
Jack Hannahan 0.1 0.7 0.4
Zach McAllister 1.3 -0.5 0.4
Lou Marson 0.5 0.1 0.3
Chris Seddon 0.3 0.3 0.3
Frank Herrmann 0.2 0.4 0.3
Cody Allen 0.2 0.3 0.3
Derek Lowe 1.0 -0.7 0.2
Lonnie Chisenhall 0.0 0.1 0.1
Luke Carlin -0.1 0.2 0.1
Scott Barnes 0.1 0.1 0.1
Jeremy Accardo 0.1 0.1 0.1
David Huff 0.0 0.1 0.1
Cord Phelps 0.0 0.0 0.0
Johnny Damon -0.1 0.1 0.0
Corey Kluber 0.6 -0.6 0.0
Rafael Perez -0.1 0.1 0.0
Russ Canzler -0.1 0.0 -0.1
Vinny Rottino 0.0 -0.3 -0.2
Jose Lopez -0.4 0.0 -0.2
Jairo Asencio -0.1 -0.3 -0.2
Scott Maine -0.1 -0.3 -0.2
Tony Sipp -0.3 0.0 -0.2
Matt LaPorta -0.2 -0.4 -0.3
Juan Diaz -0.2 -0.4 -0.3
Brent Lillibridge -0.3 -0.2 -0.3
Nick Hagadone -0.2 -0.4 -0.3
Shelley Duncan -0.2 -0.6 -0.4
Jason Donald -0.4 -0.3 -0.4
Thomas Neal -0.4 -0.3 -0.4
Roberto Hernandez -0.3 -0.5 -0.4
Dan Wheeler -0.4 -0.4 -0.4
Ubaldo Jimenez 0.1 -1.1 -0.5
Aaron Cunningham -0.5 -0.5 -0.5
Josh Tomlin 0.1 -1.2 -0.6
Jeanmar Gomez -0.4 -1.2 -0.8
Casey Kotchman -1.5 -1.1 -1.3
TOTAL     16.7

 

You should notice a few things here. First, we had no outstanding players last season. That, I’m afraid, probably comes as no surprise. Our most valuable player was Carlos Santana (whose value was nearly all with the bat, especially his late-season power surge that no one saw or remembers) followed by Jason Kipnis (whose value was mostly glove-related, believe it or not). You’ll also notice that our most valuable pitcher was Vinnie Pestano. Which is both awesome and staggeringly heartbreaking.

One other thing on this table. Look at that total number at the bottom. The 2012 team provided about 17 more wins than a replacement level team would have. And if we’re to trust David Schoenfield who suggests a replacement level team would win “about 50 games”, the Indians should have won 67 games last season (50 for replacement plus 17 more “above” replacement). They actually won 68. Pretty nifty stat, huh? I like it when these things work out.

Those 17 wins above replacement, we should at least point out, made them the second worst team in baseball last season. Let that sink in for just a moment, because it’s important.

Now let’s try to summarize this info a bit, since that’s a lot of data to actually think about in any meaningful way. Here’s another chart—same data but with players categorized into buckets.

2012 Bucket WAR

*I’m counting catchers and DHs as infielders here.

If that doesn’t smack you right in the face, I don’t know what will. The 2012 rotation played slightly worse than your run-of-the-mill Triple-A rotation. The position players contributed roughly 13 wins, which isn’t too bad. But the pitching staff was only able to contribute three or so more wins, almost all of which was contributed by Vinnie Pestano and (believe it or not) Justin Masterson.

You might be curious as to the typical WAR distribution across a roster—on average, how much of a team’s value is pitching related versus how much is position player related.2 Turns out that roughly 60% of the league’s WAR was generated by position players last season with the remaining 40% composed of pitcher performance. Check this out, based strictly on 2012 fWAR across all teams:

fWAR dist - 2012

So the cliché about 90% of the game being pitching? Yeah. That’s not true. Try 40%, grandpa. ALSO: LIQUOR AND MENTHOL CIGARETTES DON’T CURE COLDS, OLD MAN. SCIENCE!!

So just for some quick giggles, let’s pretend that instead of being terrible, the pitching staff had contributed proportionally—which is to say, pretend that they accounted for 40% of the team’s value. If we hold the position players’ contribution steady at 13.3 wins, that would mean that an equally talented pitching staff would’ve contributed about nine wins above replacement rather than 3.3 Almost all of that difference is on the rotation, which was, as we’ve pointed out, just unbelievably terrible. But even if we’d had a proportionally performing rotation, we would’ve generated 22 WAR rather than 17. That takes the team to 72 wins–still pretty awful.

But Jon, I can hear you shouting, the Indians are a different team in 2013 than they were last year! It’s not FAIR to compare the two. After all, NICKY SWISHMAS AND DREW STUBBS AND TREVOR BAUER AND MIKE AVILES AND WINDMILL REYNOLDS AND BRETT…..well, no. I will not celebrate Brett Myers.

Good for you for not celebrating Brett Myers, at least from a moral perspective. But most of that is fair, I think. Let’s try to account for the changes that this team has undergone. First here are the additions, along with their average WAR from 2012:

Player AVG_WAR
Nick Swisher 3.7
Mike Aviles 1.8
Brett Myers* 0.8
Drew Stubbs 0.6
Mark Reynolds 0.2
TOTAL 7.1

*In the interest of generosity, I’m counting Myers’ 2011 rather than his 2012, to capture a season in which he was a starter.

So we added about seven wins to the roster. Let’s say that Trevor Bauer throws 125 or so good-to-very-good innings (a bullish prediction to be sure, considering that such a debut is exceedingly rare) and give him an extra three wins above replacement for that contribution. That’s plus 10 wins over last year—taking a 68 win team to a 78 win team and a wild card spot.

Oh. Wait. 78 wins is not good and would not yield a wild card spot. Yuck.

But of course, I’m not even finished here. We lost some players from last season too. Check this table out:

PLAYER AVG_WAR
Shin-Soo Choo 2.9
Esmil Rogers 0.9
Travis Hafner 0.7
Jack Hannahan 0.4
Chris Seddon 0.3
Derek Lowe 0.2
Johnny Damon 0.0
TOTAL 5.4

To recap, our new players might be worth 10 wins (and I think I’m being REALLY generous there), while we lost five or six wins from the roster. That would be a net gain of about four or five wins, unless they’ve changed the rules of math on me.

Last season, this team won 68 games. Using my most generous assumptions, I’m getting them to 74 in 2013. That’s….just not going to cut it.

And to be honest, that’s why a lot of scribes were advocating blowing up the roster this off-season. Trade everybody. Start over. This group just doesn’t have the talent to compete, and giving $70 million to Nick Swisher might just be a way of telling fans not to pay too much attention to that man behind the curtain.

Of course this isn’t the whole story. As Chris Antonetti has been saying all off-season, this team will sink or swim based not on the new additions, but on the same core we’ve been watching for years now. Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez have to combine for more than 2 WAR—a lot more. Carlos Santana needs to be the six-win player we thought he could be, not the three-win player he has been. Jason Kipnis needs to be more Robbie Cano and less Orlando Cabrera (did you know that Kipnis hit .257 last season with a .714 OPS? That’s not so good.) Lonnie Who Loved Baseball has to learn to hit LHP and improve his defense. Asdrubal has to find that power stroke that jumped out at us in 2011. Michael Brantley needs to get on base like he did in Columbus. Our best pitcher just CANNOT be a middle reliever, no matter how lovable he may be along the way.

And if all that stuff happens, those extra four or five wins that the club added this off-season might take them from 85 wins to 90. And that’d be great. Nobody would be happier than I would. Juice boxes for everyone, on me. Promise.

But make no mistake: the odds are stacked against them. Most of those players who we’ll be counting on have had adequate time to show us what kind of players they really are—and they aren’t great. Most of the time, players don’t magically become much better versions of themselves in their middle and late 20s. Most of the time, when a pitcher has a calamitous loss of velocity or when a hitter demonstrates an inability to hit same-armed pitching or when a team LOSES 94 FREAKING GAMES….well, they usually don’t just turn it all around and figure out how win their divisions.

The point here is not to rain on the Indians’ shiny off-season parade. Again, I’m happy that the front office believes that this team is closer to contention than it appears to me (and to math)—they’re almost certainly smarter than I am, and I’ll defer to their expertise, especially when it means they spend their time and money trying to make the team better instead of tearing it down and making it (immediately) worse.

No, I just wonder if we’re not doing what we seem always to do this time of year: filling ourselves up with stories about how if everything goes just right….we might……we could…..I mean, it’s possible….don’t say it’s not, because it IS POSSIBLE….

Baseball. The opiate of the optimist masses.

Pitchers and catchers report in 27 days, and the Cleveland Indians are 66-1 to win the World Series. I’ll take those odds. But then again, I always do.

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. To get these numbers to tie, you’ll have to add component “position player” WAR and “pitcher” WAR, since a lot of the pitchers had some at bats. Think “SUMIF” function and you should tie fine. []
  2. Weird things make me curious, you guys. []
  3. There is a system of equations to solve this little problem, but basically, 9 is about 40% of 9+13. If you’d like to talk about solving systems of equations, then you are not one of the students to whom I taught Algebra. []
  • Kyle

    Great article. Pretty interesting how the stats play out at the end in regards to WAR. The other side of the statistical debate; The Orioles in 2011 had 69 wins (Dead Last in AL East) and in 2012 they had 93 (Wild Card). Don’t think WAR accounted for 24 game win improvement based on stats from year-to-year. With a better pitching staff anything can happen. No way Masterson has as bad a year as last year.

  • ThatAlex

    Awesome article. I think this confirmed about the team what most of us already knew. This team will have to exceed expectations by a lot n order to compete for a playoff spot. Especially on the starting pitching side.

  • mgbode

    2009, 2010, 2012 were all quite similar years for Masterson
    2011 is the statistical anomaly (so far)
    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=2038&position=P

    I truly hope that I am wrong on this one and that Justin Masterson regains his 2011 form, but I do not understand why most fans have given up on Ubaldo while are banking on improvement from Masterson.

  • JacobWFNY

    Fantastic article Jon, as I already told you via email.

    My point I made to some family friends recently: Isn’t it pretty damning that the Indians’ best-case scenario for 2013 is maybe 80 wins? What does that say about 2014 — it’s not like anyone is expected to significantly improve or we’ll spend a ton more money next off-season?

    Practically, my point was that the nearest possible contention window for the franchise begins in 2015 with Lindor, which is awfully depressing.

  • REEPJP

    Awesome article Jon…..if only there was a stat to incorporate the WAR for Managers…..and then what would we call it?

  • mgbode

    Great quantitative article Jon on setting the realistic tone for the Tribe’s upcoming season. We need those youngsters to improve while the pitching staff has a phenomenal year. Still going to be sucked in and hope against hope, but it is going to be a tall order.

    Who did we get as pitching coach?

    (Hmmm, so let’s hope for 2010 Ubaldo and Myers, 2011 Masterson, improvements from McCallister and someone else to step up as well – either Bauer or Carrasco, etc.)

  • b.sherman@premiere-inc.com

    I’m w/ REEPJP, I think Terry Francona will also contribute greatly to what this team can achieve, sometimes a little fire under the ass and preaching belief rather than preaching hope is what drives team to go a little higher a little longer. And the fans would help too if we can show more constant support every home game, 85+ wins is a real possiblity in ’13 the way I see it. Go Tribe!!!!

  • steve-o

    Surely a better manager will account for some additional wins, although I’m not aware of any stats that would show it. Besides better pitching, I think we’ll need an unexpected boost from a player currently under the radar to make a playoff run. I have no idea who that would be right now. At any rate, I’m glad we’re trying to be competitive as it should at least make the season more entertaining.

  • Garry_Owen

    How much better would this be if Chisenhall was crossing his fingers in that photo?

  • http://twitter.com/GreatestHurley Jason Hurley

    Jon – regarding the last table where you highight the players the team lost (and the WAR the team lost) why didn’t you include the players that had negative WAR (Kotchman, for example)? It would seem by virtue of losing Kotchman, we gain WAR which didn’t seem to be taken into account?

  • @TheDeePagel

    Is there a way to do this analysis again, but for just the first half of the season of 2012? It just seems like the wheels fell off this team in the second half and it wasn’t a reflection of what the truly are.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    My head hurts and I’m having flashbacks to high school days when I dreaded math class!

    I tried to bottom line this whole thing by skipping the math section and going to the end but I got stuck here, “And if all that stuff happens, those extra four or five wins that the
    club added this off-season might take them from 85 wins to 90.”

    So before all the signings the Indians were going to win 85 games? Wow…I better go back and reread this entire article because clearly last years team ya know the one that statistically spent more time in first place then any other division opponent was much better then I remembered. Two words: oy-vey!

    P.S. I had to double check to make sure TD didn’t write this one! ;-)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Except Swisher’s WAR (I hate even acknowledging this newest stat geek invention) came while playing for the NY Yankees in a lineup comprised of multiple All-Stars and at least one hall of famer if not two.

  • cmm13

    “Signing Nick Swisher to the largest free agent deal in club history sent a message that apparently needed to be sent”
    That baseball free agency value is now beyond the point of absurdity.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    85 – 90 wins is realistic, really, really, no I mean really? I see Gary Owen isn’t the only one who has been hitting my latest mash of special Kool-Aid! SMH

  • @TheDeePagel

    Wow. I disagree with this.

    “it’s not like anyone is expected to significantly improve…”???

    Carlos Santana (age 26)
    Jason Kipnis (25)
    Lonnie Chisenhall (24)
    Michael Brantley (25)
    Carlos Carrasco (25)
    Zach McAllister (25)

    and the most important one Trevor Bauer (21)

    Our core position players are still heading up to their prime years, and we have three promising starting pitchers still heading up to prime years as well.

    And never discount the impact of a true ace. If Bauer truly becomes one this team will improve by leaps and bounds in 2014 and 2015. An ace does that.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Swish was smiling so much and so EXCITED because he couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have become a free agent at that perfect point in time. It was the Perfect Storm scenario come to life. I wish I could have seen Swish’s agent I’m sure he was equally as excited.

  • JacobWFNY

    Here’s part of an email I sent to the WFNY gang recently, in response to Keith Law’s Insider article about the top 25 prospects under 25:

    “Kipnis turns 26 in April. Brantley turns 26 in May. Hagadone just turned 27 in January. Santana turns 27 in April. Jimenez turns 28 in two weeks. Masterson turns 28 in March. Perez turns 28 in July. Cabrera turns 28 in November.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I realized those guys were getting so relatively old already. It’s scary, again. And pretty damning to the potential of this currently constructed Indians team.”

    My point is similar to Jon’s about the WAR potential of these players. Certainly, you would hope Santana/Jimenez/Masterson/et al would all be better than they were in 2012 based on previous expectations. But that’s fairly outlandish to assume. They haven’t proven anything recently that they’re All-Star-esque (say, 5+ WAR). And if no one on the Indians is, how could we expect to instantly become a 80+ win team?

  • @TheDeePagel

    The only player we both mentioned was Santana.

    If the players I mentioned in my post continue to progress our 2014 will show improvement.

    That was my point.

  • WFNYJon

    I thought about that, I really did.

    As you point out, Kotchman, Duncan, Fauxberto, Tomlin, and a few others had negative WARs last season and they won’t be contributing in 2013. I left them off the list–limiting the “addition by subtraction” element.

    I think I just decided that negative WAR guys are more often than not going to happen. And just because Shelley Duncan won’t post a negative WAR next year doesn’t mean someone else won’t instead. Assuming that NO PLAYER on the 2013 Indians posts a negative number seemed to me too optimistic an assumption to make.

    But you’re right: including those guys in the last chart would’ve made things slightly rosier.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Kyle – fangraphs have a stat for that….it’s the “Mark Reynolds Walk Year Effect”, or MRWYC. It’s a measurement of when Reynolds is in a walk year, that team gets 20+ more wins.

    That’s why we signed him to a 1 year deal. Antonetti looked at fangraphs before writing up the contract.

    It’s a lock.

  • WFNYJon

    I think Craig brought this up once when we were podcasting. I tend not to think a manager has a great impact on individual player performance, but if any roster would be receptive to that sort of impact, it would be a young one like ours. And if any manager could actually have that sort of impact, it would be a good one like Francona. I hope I’m wrong.

  • @TheDeePagel

    I wish MLB would not actually play any more games and teams would just assemble their rosters in the offseason and use every acronym available to determine every divisional race, playoff series, and champion.

    It would really add excitement to the league and enjoyment to the fans.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Sorry – missed Kipnis and Brantley. But being 26 is still young to a MLB player in my mind.

  • NateSilver

    Don’t use WAR as a way to quantify how many more or less games the Tribe will win. It’s a nice new statistic for statistical analyst majors like myself, but people misuse it way too often. There’s way too many confounding variables in sports. Losing streaks, injuries, coaching effect, etc. Plus many of the players whose WAR you have listed didn’t even contribute enough to make their WAR even significant such as Thomas Neal, Rottino, Maine, Lillibridge. WAR is meant to show how much better a player is from that year’s average player. It’s a way to measure how far a player deviates from the mean, either positively or negatively, they just use Wins as a unit because it kind of makes sense with how it is calculated.

    A better way to analyze this would be to look at the ~15 position players that provided the bulk of playing time, ~ 8 relief pitchers with most innings, and use starting pitchers with over 5 starts (or so). Then do this same thing with the players you project to be on the starting day roster this year and compare how much better it is as opposed to last year. But that doesn’t show how good they really are, because you’ll just get some number in terms of WAR with no frame of reference. So you should then calculate the same thing for each team, last year and next years’ projected. Then you’ll have a nice way to compare how well the Indians match up with playoff teams. Look at 2011′s team WAR for the A’s, Giants, and Orioles (or the Red Sox for a laugh) and you’ll see how inaccurate it can be in terms of Wins.

  • JNeids

    If we win 90 games, make my juice box and Ecto Cooler.

  • WFNYJon

    Not sure if you’re willfully misunderstanding this or not. But let’s give you the benefit of the doubt.

    First, adding individual player WAR to get team totals is pretty standard fare in the sabermetric community. Dave Cameron, who helped refine the fangraphs version of WAR, does it all the time. Here’s a quick example of that from Dave: http://www.ussmariner.com/2011/11/02/daves-201-off-season-plan/

    Your second point would just necessarily make the argument less precise and introduce unneeded assumptions. Why assume that only 8 relief pitchers would matter when more than that typically do? I just don’t understand the point of being reductive: computers can add stuff now, so we don’t have to make those sorts of assumptions to simplify things.

    Third, the “R” in WAR stands for replacement-level, not average. So these are not wins above what an average player would produce. There is no “mean” production that goes into the sausage-grinder. That might explain why you have such issues with the statistic: user-error can be a problem.

    But if you insist that a different sort of analysis is required, by all means, go for it. The barrier to entry on the internet is pretty low these days: a computer and broadband connection and you’re up and running. Go forth and compute.

  • @TheDeePagel

    I liked this post simply for the Red Sox line.

  • @TheDeePagel

    The Indians acquisitions mean they will win the Central with 92 wins. The Tigers will finish 3rd thanks in part to a season ending injury to Justin Verlander in May, and the Royals finish second with 88 wins. The Twins out last the Sox for the battle not to be last.

    You’re right – that was easy!

  • dwhit110

    Illuminating as always Jon.

  • dwhit110

    I was thinking this as I was reading (and I’m a big sabermetrics believer) but there’s not a good way to quantify the ridiculous losing streak they went on in the summer last year. A better manager and a team that’s not quitting on said manager should help there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.huyghe Kevin Huyghe

    This is one of those articles that Jon will bookmark in a special place to link to come October and we finish with 73 wins.

  • mgbode

    dangit, we still need to hit on that “+” factor

  • mgbode

    you might want to re-read the whole thing Sham. the 85win factor was Jon throwing out an “if everything goes absolutely perfect” scenario.

    Here is the line you are missing about his realistic level-setting:
    “Using my most generous assumptions, I’m getting them to 74 in 2013.”

  • mgbode

    I don’t see how scouting reports, pitching/hitting coaches working to work on strengths/weaknesses, etc. do not have an impact on performance.

    Oftentimes, I think we all get caught up in the stuff we see (hit-n-run calls, sacrifice bunts, etc.) when the stuff that really matters is all that we do not see.

    I think there’s a reason that Mike Maddux teams have had bumps in performance (current pitching coach for Rangers).

  • mgbode

    so goes Kipnis, so goes the Tribe. Kipnis was cruising along to a good (but still not great) season until July 26th (the Verlander game). And yes, it was directly after that game he went into a slump.

    BA/OBP/SLG/OPS
    April1 – July 26th: .275/.347/.413/.760
    July 27th – Oct 3rd: .225/.313/.319/.632

    Note: this was also the first full MLB season that Kipnis had played in his career and that may have been a factor in this dropoff.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    So what’s your point? lol I guess that’ll teach me for skipping parts of a story. I’m not apologizing to Jon though because what do you mean 74 wins? 74 wins with the changes made will not be acceptable!

  • WFNYJon

    Agreed. I think coaching does matter (how did I become the anti-coach guy? Oh, right, the published potty-mouthed email chain.)
    I also think that pitching coaches in particular can have a consistent impact as you point out. Leo Mazzone, et al.
    But I guess if we think that Francona is going to make everybody significantly better, that means that the scouting reports and workouts and teaching techniques etc. that Acta was running were SO bad as to be comical. I guess that’s possible, but I also wonder if most of what these guys do at this level is pretty rote and without considerable room for variation. I mean, how many different ways can you coach batting practice or prep video on opposing pitchers? Enough to make a bad player good? Or a good player great? I’d think not, but then again, I’m a skeptic.
    It just seems to me that it’s unlikely that EVERYTHING Acta did was bad and deleterious and EVERYTHING Francona will do will work toward enhancing production. I think it’s more likely to be a little of both, with a minimal total impact.
    But yes, the pitching coach and his impact will be very interesting to track. Considering the dumpster fire we threw out there last year, it could hardly be worse.

  • mgbode

    as the resident sabremetrician, i’m surprised you are skeptic. i don’t want to go all Milwaukee Brewers defensive shifts per batter, but there is an accepted wide variation on how to prepare for the game.

    hitting: some teams are fully invested in the new school train of thought in types of pitches per situation and how often guys miss with each type, etc. and, there are so many different ways to prepare to hit the ball that it is crazy (remember Tony Gwynn tying the pebble to a piece of fishing line and seeing how many times he could keep hitting the ball? crazy hand-eye coordination that guy had). part of the whole point is to keep things fresh so they don’t become rote practice.

    pitching: much of the same, but adding in the defensive shifts and the whole paradigm of finding a hitters holes in his swing. Even going as far as to what types of swings batters will likely fall into per situation and what holes are in that particular swing.

    When it gets down to it, Clayton Kershaw might be able to just blow his best stuff by the hitter anyway. But, Zach McCallister likely needs some help to figure out the best way to try.

    (and I didn’t even get into how good a coach is at seeing/finding/fixing mechanics in a throwing motion or swing)

  • mgbode

    oh, and note, I don’t think that everything that Acta did was bad nor that everything Francona will do is good. it’s just that I believe these things matter especially in getting young players to get the light bulb to go on while making their transition to the bigs.

  • http://twitter.com/RyanG73 Ryan Gerda

    By no means do I think that this team is ready for a playoff run, but we also have to take into account the fact that we are not bringing back a lot of our negative WAR guys like Casey Kotchman and crew.

  • SDA

    I think the one thing you may be overlooking is leadership.Teams and businesses that do well usually have good leadership. I work construction and have owned my own company as well as worked for others. I can tell you success is very dependent upon good leadership and people buying into a system. Average carpenters become good carpenters just by knowing what the do well and what they don’t do well as well as knowing how to properly motivate them. I think this applies directly to sports. Some coaches just have an aura about them. Leyland,Sparky etc etc etc. They just know how to win. I think its possible that Francona is that kinda guy. I think he could be penciled in for 10 wins

  • ragarcia

    Great article.

    My takeaway:

    1. Position players were at 13 in 2012
    2. We added a net 7 with all the transactions
    3. Pitching rises up to 40%
    4. We are a 78 win team in 2013

  • OfftoSBNation

    I found the article interesting other than the fact you neglected to make any point in mentioning what effect a good manager can have, i.e. Buck Showalter. Then I read this patronizing comment and determined you prefer arguing counterpoints with sarcasm and no actual arguments, and realized you would rather disregard things that could change the point you are trying to make, instead of try to argue them. Tell your colleagues they lost a three+ year reader because you are unprofessional, even for the blogging world. Step off your high horse, no one is impressed.

  • MSpr

    Good article, but you did leave out some important thing (some of which that have already been brought up).

    First, if you take a look at the 48 guys you have listed, there are 24 players who have zero or negative WAR. Of those, only 5 are still on the 40 man roster (Phelps, Kluber, Diaz, Hagadone, and Jimenez [according to MLB.com]). That’s a loss of almost 80% of our “under-performing” players.

    On the other hand, of the remaining 24 players who had a positive WAR, we only lost 8 of them (off our 40-man), or 33%. Considering we lost 80% of our “poor” players and only 33% of our “good” players, I’d say that is an improvement.

    Second, of the “substantial” additions (Aviles, Gomes, McGuiness, Stubbs, Albers, Bauer, Shaw, Reynolds, Swisher, Myers [of which you only listed 6 for some reason]), only 2 had negative WAR last year; Albers, who had a “down” year, as this was the first time in his career that he posted a negative WAR, and Gomes, who, in 43 games, posted a -0.2 WAR. How that will change in a suspected bench role this year remains to be seen.

    My point in all this is that we lost via free agency, trade, DFA, or outrighting to the farm, about 80% of those who didn’t perform above a replacement player, while only losing 33%. That’s a big plus in my opinion. Second, of the 10 “big” pickups, only 20% had a negative WAR last year (and historically, one of those guys has positive WAR year-in-year-out). Another positive.

    Another thing: if you look at our starting 9 last year, (with an assumed platoon in LF of Damon and Duncan), you’d be looking at about 13 WAR [similar to what it was that you have for everyone, suggesting there isn’t a huge contribution last year on this team from bench players). 2 positions, 1B and LF had negative WAR. If you take a look at our starting 9 this year, and use last years numbers (which I’m skeptical of since certain people most likely under- and -over-performed, but alas), you have a WAR of 18 (and that’s with actually only 9 players because we currently don’t have a slotted DH with any sort of WAR numbers). Still, that’s an improvement of 5+ games.

    Our offense is certainly better. And don’t forget Francona. A good coach can win you probably at least 5 more games than a poor coach will. Too bad coaches don’t get WAR stats too!

    All in all, I do agree with you that we won’t be making the playoffs this year, but I don think you under-estimate how we have improved. Baring injury from our important players, I can see this team winning 78-80 games this year.

    If they can keep that momentum going into the 2014 season, they may just have a shot at entering the playoffs.