May 30, 2011

Stars Of May: Beckett And Ellsbury

Slotted into the #4 spot when the season began, Josh Beckett has been the team's best starter. Indeed, he may be the American League's best pitcher right now.

With 11 starts in the books, Beckett leads the AL with a 1.80 ERA; he has a 1.01 WHIP. No AL pitcher has allowed fewer hits per nine innings than Beckett (5.9), and only two have allowed fewer HR/9.

Beckett has averaged a bit more than six innings per start and has allowed one or zero runs in seven of those 11 starts. In May, Beckett had a 1.00 ERA (six starts, 36.2 innings); 25 of the 26 hits he allowed were singles.

(Boston also has three starters in the top eight in LOB% (Beckett, Buchholz, Lester). Beckett's strand rate in 2011 is 85.8%, well above his career rate of 72%. It seems unlikely that the starters will be able to sustain that LOB% through the entire season.)

In the last six games, Jacoby Ellsbury has eight hits (including two home runs), seven walks, seven runs scored, and four stolen bases. He leads the Red Sox in May OBP (.394) and is third in average (.323).

Pitches seen in last five games: 24, 24, 24, 29, 25. As SoSHer Sprowl writes, "He's wearing out the opposing pitchers from the first inning on."

Ellsbury, among leadoff batters:
Pitches per PA: #2 in AL (3.89)
OBP: #1 in MLB (.385)
AVG: #1 in AL (.318), #2 in MLB
SLG: #2 in AL (.462), #4 in MLB
Runs Created Per 27 Outs: #1 in AL* (7.22), #2 in MLB

(IYI: Derek Jeter is 10th in the AL, at 4.38.)
In the last week, Carl Crawford has been white hot (.423/.464/1.000/1.464). His 11 hits include two doubles, two triples, and three home runs. He has scored nine runs and driven in eight in the last seven games.

Adrian Gonzalez talks about hitting with David Laurilla. The Q&A is pure muscle, with none of the flabby cliches you usually hear.
DL: What do you see when the ball comes out of the pitcher’s hand?

AG: I see rotation. I can pick up on what the pitch is as soon as the pitcher lets go of it. Most of what you see is innate. If you ask some of the great hitters, they won't all say the same thing. Some just see balls. Some guys see speed out of the hand. I can't recognize speed, but I can recognize rotation. ...

DL: What do a lot of fans not understand about hitting?

AG: That hitting has evolved. It's not the same that it was 10-15 years ago. ... Pitchers are throwing more pitches now, and they're moving the ball more. ... Ten, 15 years ago, not every pitcher had four or five pitches. Now they do and you have to keep that in mind.
Joe Posnanski has more thoughts on stats and statheads:
[T]heir methods may be baffling to those of us without much feel for math but in general they are working to find things that could be really interesting. There are people out there who work hard to come up with mathematical formulas to determine the run values of different actions (how much more a single is worth than a walk, for instance). There are people out there who work the numbers to separate the pitchers contribution in run prevention from the defense's contribution. Some try to break down the statistics to see if certain players have the unique talent to hit better in the clutch than they do in regular situations. ... Some just work through the numbers to find counterintuitive facts ...

Sometimes, these mathematical efforts go over my head. And sometimes they go WAY over my head. But the point is that much of baseball number crunching is for a purpose -- to answer a question, to prove a point, to discover a whole new way to look at baseball -- and that can be fascinating if you come at it with an open mind.


FenFan said...

Do statisticians view a high LOB% as good or bad? Obviously, not allowing base runners to cross the plate is good but putting runners on base is not.

I would think that having a high LOB% would be a better statistic for relievers, who often come in with runners on base.

allan said...

Leaving a higher percentage of the guys you let on base is better, obviously; even if you let fewer guys on, it's better to left them there.

I'm not sure if the ability to strand runners is a skill, however. We remember Dice's uncanny success with the bases loaded in 2008 (0 hits in 18 PA), but that felt more like the fluke that it was the longer it continued.

Maybe like BABIP, LOB% is a measure of whether things have been going particularly good or bad for a player. And like any other stat, you should look at it along with a bunch of other things.

(Someone with a low BABIP and a high line drive rate might look like he's in a slump, but there is clearly some bad timing/luck at work.)

Relievers: Inherited runner totals take care of some of that. But LOB% is probably worth looking at more than ERA for pen guys, since a 5-run inning along with 8 perfect innings is great overall, but shows up as a 5.00 ERA.

allan said...

Now I have to look at Dice's other years with the bases loaded.

2007: 32 PA, 8-for-29, .276/.344/.448

2008: 18 PA, 0-for-14, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 2 SAC.

2009: 8 PA, 0-for-7, 1 BB.

2010: 23 PA, 5-for-19, .263/.348/.316

2011: 4 PA, 2-for-4, single & double.

Career: 85 PA, 15-for-73, .205/.282/.301.

It's his lowest OPS against of all the base/out sitations, which is nice, but I would not say it's something he sustains/controls year-to-year.

Brad said...

I don’t know if I am more impressed by AGon’s ability to hit or with his ability to explain his approach to hitting. Maybe all of the really good big league hitters have this sort of approach but don’t (or aren’t able to) elucidate it so clearly. For example, guys like Manny or Vladimir Guerrero always struck me as incredibly talented hitters that just went to the plate looking for any pitch that they could drive really hard someplace and were good enough to succeed at it. On the other hand, I am sure there are guys that look at more tape than Gonzalez that don’t have the skill to deliver (as frequently) when they get the pitch they are looking for. Adrian seems to have an idea what to expect and then execute when he sees it. Regardless, I can’t remember seeing him have an AB this year where he looked foolish. I think he is going to be a lot of fun to watch all year long.