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A Look At Some Statistical Anomalies

By Andrew Perna

The third week of the Major League Baseball season is in the books, giving us some solid data to review. The first tenth of the season means a lot, and a little, at the same time. A poor start can hamper numbers over the course of the entire season if they are that drastic, but there is still plenty of time left to erase a slow beginning entirely.

On April 18, 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a -14 run differential, sat fourth in the National League West and were in the midst of a four-game losing streak. The Colorado Rockies, meanwhile, were 11-4, with a +26 differential and six-straight wins. By the end of the season, the Dodgers won the division by 11 games and the Rockies finished 74-88. The first three weeks of the season essentially meant nothing in that division.

The Boston Red Sox, the eventual World Series champions, were 11-4 last April 18 and already in control of the American League East. Not much changed there.

Numbers, no matter how much they may change, are always fun to look at, especially when it comes to baseball. Here is a look at a statistical anomaly for each team.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Injuries have really hurt Arizona’s starting rotation. They have received just two quality starts from the staff after getting 87 a year ago.

Atlanta Braves

Fresh off a new contract, Freddie Freeman is on pace to hit 43 home runs. His previous career-high is 23.

Baltimore Orioles

Chris Davis has more stolen bases (2) than home runs (1). He entered the season with 11 career steals and a combined 86 home runs over the last two years.

Boston Red Sox

Daniel Nava is hitting .130/.242/.259 after a breakout 2013 season in which he had a .303/.385/.445 slash line.

Chicago Cubs

At 28, Emilio Bonifacio is hitting .339 with a .771 OPS. For his career, he has marks of .264 and .665.

Chicago White Sox

Alexei Ramirez has been extremely valuable to the White Sox this month. In addition to a sparking .381/.426/.635 slash line, he has already contributed 1.2 WAR to his team. He’s halfway to the 2.5 WAR he had last season.

Cincinnati Reds

Joey Votto’s numbers project out to 41 homers and 111 walks this season. He had 24 dingers and 135 BBs in 2013.

Cleveland Indians

David Murphy is slugging .535 in 13 games for the Indians. In his career, which spans 862 games, he has a .442 slugging percentage.

Colorado Rockies

In his first full season in the National League, Justin Morneau is hitting .346/.386/.538. Over the course of the 2013 season, with the Twins and Pirates, he hit .259/.323/.411.

Detroit Tigers

After knocking in 137 runs last season, Miguel Cabrera is on pace for 81 RBIs.

Houston Astros

Jason Castro is hitting .213, well below his .253 career mark, and he’s on pace to nearly double his home run total from 2013 (18).

Kansas City Royals

Salvador Perez is on pace to hit 81 doubles this season. He had 49 over his previous 253 games.

Los Angeles Angels

Raul Ibanez has surpassed 100 RBIs four times in his career, but not since the 2008 season. He projects out to have 130 RBI at 41.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Uribe has contributed 1.2 WAR to the Dodgers, the second-highest total in the Majors. Over the course of 148 games with the Giants in 2010, he had 1.3.

Miami Marlins

Giancarlo Stanton is averaging .069 walks per plate appearance. That’s nearly half his career mark and significantly lower than his .147 BB/PA in 2013.

Milwaukee Brewers

The starting rotation has been strong over the first three weeks. Milwaukee’s ERA has dropped more than a full run (3.84 to 2.73) from last season.

Minnesota Twins

Brian Dozier five home runs through his first 15 games. The infielder had a total of 24 home runs in his first two Major League seasons. After hitting a home run every 52.7 at-bats in 2012, Dozier is hitting them at a 11.6 clip in 2014.

New York Mets

With a healthy Matt Harvey, the Mets had a 3.77 ERA last season. With their ace sidelined, the mark has jumped to 4.33.

New York Yankees

After posting a .683 OPS during their disappointing 2013 season, the Yankees lead baseball with a .783 mark behind Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Alfonso Soriano.

Oakland Athletics

Jed Lowrie has a career .337 OBP, but has gotten on base nearly half of the time (.477) with the Athletics through 15 games.

Philadelphia Phillies

Chase Utley is hitting .462/.517/.769 through 58 plate appearances. Over the last four seasons, Utley, who has dealt with knee issues, hit .270/.361/.446 in 432 games.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pedro Alvarez has struck out 6.3 times for every home run in his career, but that figure is down to just 2.7 in the early going.

San Diego Padres

This might actually stick, but Andrew Cashner’s 1.27 ERA in his first four starts is nearly three times lower than his career mark of 3.35.

San Francisco Giants

Bruce Bochy’s club has a 4.06 K/BB ratio, the best rate in baseball, after ranking 22nd (2.41) in 2013.

Seattle Mariners

Robinson Cano is slugging .356 in his first 59 at-bats with the Mariners. He had a .504 slugging percentage in 5,791 plate appearances with the Yankees.

St. Louis Cardinals

Matt Carpenter led all players with 55 doubles in 2013, but has yet to hit a two-bagger.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays had a .737 OPS and .257 batting average last season, but are hitting just .221 with a .659 OPS in 2014.

Texas Rangers

Prince Fielder has contributed -0.9 WAR in his first few weeks as a member of the Rangers. He has had at least 1.3 WAR in each of his seven previous seasons, including 6.0 to the Brewers in 2009.

Toronto Blue Jays

Edwin Encarnacion who had the third-most home runs (36) in the Major Leagues in 2013, has yet to hit one this season. He averaged 14.7 AB/HR last year and led baseball with a 12.9 average in 2012.

Washington Nationals

The pitching staff has a 4.10 ERA, but averages 10.22 strikeouts per nine innings. The Nationals had one of the best ERAs (3.59) in baseball last season, but struck out 7.69 per nine.


MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning April 14

By RealGM Staff Report

The Opsera is a statistic RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina created in order to objectively rank teams by how well they hit (OPS) and pitch (ERA). 

In order to determine the Opsera rating for each, we take their OPS, multiply that number by 10 to move the decimal point over one place to the right and then subtract their ERA from that number.  

All statistics are through Sunday, April 13.

Rankings from the end of the 2013 regular season are in parenthesizes.

1. (17) Milwaukee Brewers – 5.71

It's no surprise the Brewers hold the top spot in our first rankings of the season. They've won nine straight, including 6-0 on the road, and have the lowest ERA (1.80) in baseball.

2. (7) Oakland Athletics – 4.89

Sonny Gray has a 0.95 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched (three starts).

3. (3) Atlanta Braves – 4.67

A long-term deal hasn't ruined Freddie Freeman's drive. He's hitting .442/.519/.814 with four home runs and 10 RBI through 12 games.

4. (4) Los Angeles Dodgers – 4.23

Zack Greinke is nice to have when Clayton Kershaw is hurting. The right-hander has a 2.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 16.1 innings (three starts).

5. (11) Washington Nationals – 4.22

All five of Washington's losses have come against Atlanta in the early going.

6. (27) Seattle Mariners – 3.88

Robinson Cano has the Mariners in contention -- for now. The second baseman is hitting .333/.417/.381 without a home run in 11 games.

7. (20) San Francisco Giants – 3.82

The Giants have a .751 OPS, good for eighth in the game. Brandon Belt's five home runs (.577 slugging) have paced the offense.

T8. (10) Tampa Bay Rays – 3.56

If they decide to trade David Price, Chris Archer may be ready to assume his place atop the rotation. The young righty has a 1.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings.

-- (16) Los Angeles Angels – 3.56

Pujols has three home runs after hitting just 17 all of last season, but he still has a troubling slash line .240/.309/.500.

10. (1) Detroit Tigers – 3.54

Rajai Davis has been an underrated addition to the Tigers. He has five steals for the slow-footed club and is hitting .345/.412/.448 in eight games.

11. (26) Philadelphia Phillies – 3.47

12. (8) Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.45

13. (23) New York Yankees – 3.44

14. (5) Cincinnati Reds – 3.43

15. (19) Toronto Blue Jays – 3.33

16. (29) Miami Marlins – 3.30

17. (2) Boston Red Sox – 3.19

18. (18) Colorado Rockies – 3.15

19. (T24) San Diego Padres – 3.13

20. (12) Kansas City Royals – 2.78

21. (6) St. Louis Cardinals – 2.77

22. (T24) Chicago White Sox – 2.68

23. (13) Cleveland Indians – 2.67 

24. (9) Texas Rangers – 2.58

25. (21) Chicago Cubs – 2.50

26. (15) Baltimore Orioles – 2.38

27. (28) Minnesota Twins – 1.95

28. (30) Houston Astros – 1.80

29. (22) New York Mets – 1.13

30. (14) Arizona Diamondbacks – 1.12

 

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Miguel Cabrera And The Difficulty Of Monster Contracts

By James Jackson

Miguel Cabrera made history before the 2014 MLB season even started with his historic 10-year, $300 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. 

With reigning NL Cy Young winner Clay Kershaw ($215 million over seven seasons) and five-time AL All-Star Robinson Cano ($240 million over 10 seasons) already receiving sizable raises of their own, Cabrera’s new deal moved the bar for contracts even further.

Entering this season, 21 players are poised to earn at least $20 million, and 12 are position players. Among the group, Ryan Howard (62 missed games), Mark Texeira (147), Joe Mauer (49), Albert Pujols (63), Matt Kemp (56), Jacoby Ellsbury (28), Jayson Werth (33), Carl Crawford (46) and David Wright (50) missed extensive time last season. Lucrative multi-year MLB extensions hardly make for happy endings -- especially when said deals are signed when the player is in, or past, his prime.

Cabrera is nearing 31 and had two seasons remaining before becoming a free-agent, raising questions about the timing of his new deal. But despite Cabrera professing a desire to remain with Detroit, playing the waiting game can be risky -- especially for the first Triple Crown winner since 1967.

Of course, it also feels as though this is familiar territory with Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and even Cabrera’s recently-traded teammate, Prince Fielder all signing huge deals only to make those teams regret the decision.

When superstar sluggers parlay their home runs and four digit OPS marks into expensive commitments, disappointment has too often loomed.

Pujols has been a shell of himself with the Angels, with his OPS dropping to .859 in 2012 and just .767 in 2013.

Despite winning a World Series in 2009 during his 10-year, $275 deal, Rodriguez has also seen his production fall off radically while also becoming an injury and suspension liability for the Yankees.

Fielder was overshadowed by Cabrera’s transcendence after signing with Detroit for nine seasons and $214 million before the 2012 season. Fielder played in all 324 available games during his two-year tenure with the Tigers, but hit just 30 homers in 2012 and 25 in 2013.

In Cabrera’s case, there was no precedent for the Tigers to negotiate this extension. In 2012, he won his aforementioned Triple Crown, the first since Carl Yastrzemski, along with his first of two consecutive MVPs. He’s only the ninth player in major league history with three-consecutive batting titles, becoming the first AL player since Wade Boggs (1985-87) and first Tiger since Ty Cobb (1917-19) to accomplish the feat.

On the surface, Cabrera seems poised to become another slugger full of historic relevance and promise only to show his mortal self as he gets further into his thirties. But Pujols and Rodriguez, among others, showed their mortality before their deals.

Pujols is already a relative bust for the Angels, but the contract was also signed after his worst statistical season with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had his fifth-lowest HR total (37), worst batting average (.299) and worst OPS (.906).

Unlike Pujols, Rodriguez's monster deal came after his third MVP (54 HR, 156 RBI, .314 BA) and before he was linked to performance enhancing drugs. But despite those numbers, Rodriguez never fully justified his monster contract and included bonuses for rising the all-time home run list as the Yankees planned to pay for value that went beyond the field.

Justifying a $30 million salary will be laborious for Cabera, especially without Fielder offering lineup protection. With age for most players, bat speed slows, power diminishes, and skills ultimately erode. Many become a lesser version of themselves, leaving their All-Star production a distant memory.

The Tigers are banking on Cabrera’s historic precedence outweighing contractual precedence, where 10-year deals are considered a death sentence. Fielder’s deal proved burdensome because pull-happy sluggers don’t age well and the Tigers traded him before the secret was out.

On the other hand, when Cabrera is 36 and halfway through his contract, a steep decline isn’t guaranteed -- especially compared to several all-time greats.

At age 38, Ted Williams batted .388, with 38 homers and recorded a .526 on-base percentage, even batting .328 the next year.

The former home run king, Hank Aaron, hit .301, 40 home runs, 96 RBI, recorded a .401 OBP and made the All-Star team at age 40.

Moreover, Barry Bonds, at age 36, started a run of four-straight MVPs, averaged 52 home runs, 110 RBI, 189 walks, never hit lower than .328 and averaged a .559 OBP, winning two batting titles. Even noting his alleged PED usage, those are numbers no one has ever recorded, especially during their “twilight” years.

As for Cabrera, he, too, can perform well into his mid-late thirties. He’s finished top-five in MVP voting seven of the past nine seasons, ranking top eight in batting average in eight of those years. Assuming his seasonal averages of 181 hits and 33 home runs hold for seven years, he’ll join Aaron as the only players ever with 3,700 hits and 500 home runs.

Just as impressive, Cabrera can join Williams, Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx as the only players with a career .320 average and 500 home runs.

Regardless of recent failed ten-year agreements, the Tigers were right to invest so heftily in Cabrera. The odds suggest his twilight years will entail an undeserved, $30 million salary, but he may just be exceptionally good enough to defy expectation.



NL West: Money Buys The Division

The Dodgers have spent enough to guarantee a division title, but the Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies should still be competitive.


AL West: How Will The Division Be Won?

The Rangers added Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder to their offense, which sagged a bit in 2013, while the Mariners made waves by spending big money on Robinson Cano.


RealGM's Complete Fantasy Baseball Preview

Tiers and advice for all positions on the field and a Top 200 with Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen at the top.


Fantasy Baseball Preview: Outfielders

Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen share the first tier, while Carlos Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, Adam Jones, Ryan Braun and Jacoby Ellsbury are in tier two.


Fantasy Baseball Preview: Starting Pitchers

Clayton Kershaw owns the top tier by himself while Yu Darvish, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer are in the second tier.


Fantasy Baseball Preview: Relief Pitchers

The adage spoken by many, including myself – don't pay for saves – applies this year as well (and will apply for the foreseeable future). There is just too much turnover at the closer position to justify the risk of investing high picks.