Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hurt feelings

After the Big Hurt's second consecutive 0-for-4 outing on Friday, I took a good look at his season stats and decided that I could do better. After perusing the waiver wire, I picked up Carlos Quentin (instead of Ryan Ludwick whom I also considered).

Now I read that Toronto benched Frank Thomas today, and their manager has informed him that his playing time will likely be reduced from here on out. Of course, this didn't sit too well with Thomas who said the following in an story:
"Sixty at bats isn't enough to make that decision. I'm angry, I know I can help this team. My career isn't going to end like this."
But is Thomas right? Is it not fair to judge a player after 60 at bats? Well, Pizza Cutter @ Statistically Speaking has crunched some numbers regarding what can (and can't) be generally known about a hitter's expected performance going forward after X amount of plate appearances.

Pizza Cutter's findings showed that after just 50 plate appearances, you can judge what percentage of pitches a player will swing at (i.e., is this hitter a free swinger or not). After 100 plate appearances, you can judge the player's contact rate (i.e., if they swing do they make contact or not). After 150 plate appearances, you can judge their strikeout rate, line drive rate, and pitches taken per plate appearance. However, it isn't until after 500 plate appearances that a fair determination can be made about on-base percentage, slugging percentage, singles rate, and popup rate.

Granted, Pizza Cutter's analysis is probably more useful for judging young prospects as they break into the big leagues (such as Evan Longoria or Justin Upton), but it might also be applicable when a hitter at the end of his career starts to regress.

I don't blame the Big Hurt for being upset with being benched, especially since he could miss out on a $10 million option if he doesn't get 376 plate appearances this year. However, I gotta believe that if Frank Thomas were running a fantasy baseball team he'd drop himself in favor of Carlos Quentin too.

HT Brock For Broglio


Pauly said...

another reason to never draft a player above the age of 38.

Greg said...

another reason to never draft a player above the age of 38.

Heheh. Whatever happened to never say never? ;-)

Yeah. There's still a human element that you just can't predict with the numbers. You never quite know when people are going to make "The Leap," or have a career year, etc., and you just hope that you're lucky enough to have them on your roster when they do.

I agree that many factors can go into a hitter's performance. Another one is having a different batting coach who gets him to make a subtle change (either in stance or approach) which ends up making a big difference.

Although, now that the MLB is cracking down on performance-enhancers, I do wonder if stats will start to become a little more predictable. Over the past 10 years or so there have been quite a few guys who have made "The Leap" in an unnatural manner.

Chairman said...

I've talked about minimizing risk in the first couple rounds, since everyone has superstars in those rounds. But as your draft progresses, you should start taking on risk, since the reward start to outweigh the risk (by quite a bit, once you get past the 10th to 11th rounds). That's when older players become a reasonable play.

When drafting older players, think about this question. Who makes it as a starter at the age of 38 or more?

The related question is, "How does that change how I evaluate older players?"