Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dumb Baseball Analysis

The world is full of dumb baseball analysis. The popularity of fantasy sports has only lead to greater proliferation of this strain of stupidity. Here is some from a fantasy baseball newsletter I got this morning:

Question: Which players' new addresses have affected their Fantasy value the most?
Answer: Dontrelle Willis -- Only the Yankees scored more runs in the AL than the Tigers last year, and Willis brought Cabrera (who led the Marlins in batting average, homers, RBI and walks last year). Willis will also have an established closer (Todd Jones, whom he pitched with three seasons ago) and he won't be asked to lead the pitching staff anymore. He had some personal problems that might have attributed to his down season, but now, with less responsibility deeper back in the rotation, he can just pitch.

This nugget of wisdom is from David Gonos who holds the highly regarded title of "Senior Fantasy Writer" for CBS Sports. Now I will give him one thing, Willis will be playing for a team that scores more runs, so this should help his win total. That will increase his fantasy value. But what is this garbage about an established closer, ahem Todd Jones? Mr. Jones will be 40 in April. His ERA over the last three years is 2.10, 3.94, 4.26. His K/BB: 4.43, 2.55, 1.44. His GB/FB: 2.04, 1.85, 1.51. This guy is a disaster about to happen. Now the Marlins have the 29 year old Kevin Gregg who had a 3.54 ERA and 87 K in 84 IP last year. I'm not saying he's great, but compared to Todd Jones...

The Todd Jones stats raise another issue. Look at that 2.10 ERA he had three years ago. That was when he was pitching for Florida. His numbers have obviously declined since. Some of this can be attributed to age, but some of it must be attributed to switching to the AL. Guess what, Willis is making the same move. Would it really be shocking if his ERA went up from its already not-fit-for-fantasy-baseball 5.17?

Finally, you gotta love the last bit of logic from Mr. Gonos. Dontrelle won't have as much pressure on him because he will be at the back of the rotation. Maybe Mr. Gonos should get a new title "Senior Fantasy Psychiatrist."

Ok, now all of that being said, I would expect Dontrelle to post better stats then he did last year. This has very little to do with switching teams (though the extra run support should mean wins, as mentioned earlier.) He had bad luck last year. His BIPA was .311. In other words, of all the balls put in play (not strikeouts, walks, or home runs) there was a .311 probability the ball was a hist. This is very high for a pitcher, but pitchers have very little control over this. It is mostly a matter of luck. You can control strikeouts, walks, and home runs, but it's hard to control singles vs. ground ball outs, or a double vs. a fly-out. Of the 42 NL pitchers who pitched enough innings to "qualify" statistically, that is the third worst BIPA, behind only Matt Belisle and Scott Olsen. So if he just gets a little better luck, i.e. less balls in play are hits, then he will see significant improvement. Whether that is enough to overcome the move to the AL remains to be seen.

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