Monthly archives: December 2003
Barry Zito Forever
Rob Neyer thinks that Barry Zito is losing it. He has two pieces of evidence: (1) his hit rate is extremely low, and (2) his strikeout rate is falling.
Well, this blog wouldn't be living up to its name if we didn't argue with that. Let's separate the evidence into its two parts.
First, the hit-rate argument. Neyer says:
He was very, very lucky. Hit-lucky. In both seasons, only 25 percent of the batted balls in play fell in for hits. That's exceptionally low unless you're a knuckleballer, and Zito's not.
This is the DIPS argument, that pitchers don't control batting average on balls in play, batters do. DIPS assumes that BABIP is all luck, and if you even that luck out, you can predict a pitcher's future ERA with DIPS better than you can with his real ERA.
Recent scrutiny of DIPS has found some exceptions. Some pitchers do demonstrate some control over BABIP. Knuckleballers. Extreme flyball pitchers. Lefthanders. And the most recently discovered exception, pitchers who get lots of infield popups. Zito is three of those four. And perhaps his curve ball is so darn good it has the same effect as a knuckleball.
Zito led the AL in both popups (78, 2nd place 58) and foulouts (32) in 2003. Popups and foulouts almost never fall as hits. In that sense, a popup is almost as good as a strikeout. If Zito creates popups at a higher rate than anyone else, his BABIP should be lower accordingly. And it is. His real ERA has been lower than his DIPS ERA every single year of his career, usually by a wide margin:
Year ERA DIPS
Zito's done this four years in a row. And when someone can do something consistently and repeatedly, I call that a skill, not luck. So I don't buy the DIPS argument with Zito. I think the problem here is with DIPS, not Zito. Zito is a DIPS outlier.
The strikeout/walk rate argument is a bit more alarming. His ERA is still pretty darn low, even though he's striking out fewer batters every year. More balls are being put in play every year. The question is: are those missing strikeouts being turned into popups (almost as likely to be an out as a strikeout), or other types of balls in play (less likely to be an out)?
Well, I haven't seen any popup stats for any years except 2003. But I would doubt that more than just a fraction (1/3? 1/5?) are being turned into popups. That remaining fraction is likely to be turned into hits at a league-average rate. So in that sense, Neyer is right: his ERA is likely to go up if the falling strikeout trend continues.
Even so, I'm not going be calling for Billy Beane to go trade Barry Zito anytime soon. I'll take off my stathead hat and put on my scouts hat, and tell you why I'd keep him: the hope of a fourth pitch.
Barry Zito is a three-pitch pitcher: fastball, curveball, changeup. That's it. When he has all three pitches working, he's darn near impossible to hit. Example: Game 2, 2003 ALDS.
But when he loses the touch on one of those pitches, he's suddenly a two-pitch pitcher with a mediocre 88 MPH fastball. He's wily enough to be able to take those two pitches and get through the order twice without too much damage. But on those nights, he usually struggles to get through the order a third time. I've seen it happen many times. Example: Game 5, 2003 ALDS.
Zito is only 25 years old. It's not too late for him to find a fourth pitch: sinker, cutter, splitter...some other weapon to put in his arsenal. If he had one more pitch, one more way to throw the hitters off balance, he'd have a much better chance of getting through those innings where he is struggling with control.
Zito fiddled with a cutter last spring training, but abandoned it when the season started. So I know he's thought about it. If he could find that extra pitch, I think he'd win several more Cy Young Awards. In fact, I think he would be so good the Hall of Fame couldn't take him. When he gets too old to last five or six innings without getting tired, he'd go to the bullpen and be the best old LOOGY in baseball. He'd be his generation's Jesse Orosco or John Franco, only better. Barry Zito would pitch forever.
Tenderness Is Arbitrary
Every year, Billy Beane goes shopping to make sure he is stocked up on about seven starting pitchers. He puts five of them in the Oakland fridge for immediate consumption, and dumps two in the freezer in Sacramento for future use. This year, he was eyeing some Mark Redmeat, but today he decided it was too much flank steak at filet mignon prices. So now he must keep shopping, hungrily eyeing today's butcher block for the best deal he can find on fresh, non-tenderized beef.
Justin Duchscherer gets to stay in the fridge for the moment. Meanwhile, Menechino scutaros off, and Fikac is free to agent himself around. I wonder why Billy kept Frankie and Jeremy on the 40-man roster for the Rule 5 draft? I don't know. Mabeus A's didn't really care for those guys they lost. But it's not like Jeremy didn't slider or something. For A's fans, what else is Neu? Nothing, apparently, and that's what they got for him. Perhaps we're wishing farewell to them because they happened to get caught with a Hammond the new cookie jar.
The duration of Durazo's A's tenure was extended a year. It's the right thing to do. So only one guy left: whither Chad Brad Ford? I've not heard a word. It would be wise if he were tenderized. In his case, no news is good news.
First Pitch 2004 Notes
If you took 6,000 A's season ticket holders, and lined them all up, how far would they stretch? Apparently, the A's wanted to know, as they tried an experiment designed to answer that question before the First Pitch 2004 event in the Coliseum Arena.
To conduct the experiment, they only opened one entrance to the building, and they opened it late. So when we arrived at 6:50pm, the one line into the arena stretched down the ramp to the North side parking lot, across the plaza to the stadium entrance behind home plate, all the way along the third-base side of the stadium, and up the ramp to BART behind the left field bleachers.
It creates a very interesting illusion. A line that long looks like a heck of a lot more people than when they're all sitting in a half-empty arena. With all those people in one line, I started to wonder how anybody ever complains that there aren't enough A's fans.
Eventually the line moved, and we got in. They started late so we didn't miss anything. I took some notes. Here they are:
The first segment was hosted by KTVU sports anchor Joe Fonzi and comedian Mark Pitta. It was a talk-show-like set, with a couple of sofas. They showed a highlight reel from 2003. I hadn't really thought much about it until then, but watching those highlights it really hit me: Damn, I miss baseball. Then, the "guests" were brought out. In order of appearance:
Then came the second half of the show, which was to be part of the Best Damn Sports Show Period on Fox at some point. Leeann Tweeden hosted. She will be participating with Barry Zito in the Oakland Ballet Nutcracker tomorrow night.
Newsday is reporting that the Yankees are about to trade Chris Hammond to the A's.
Hammond is a lefty change-up artist who has an easier time getting right-handed batters out than lefties. He had a great year two years ago with the Braves (0.95 ERA/1.11 WHIP), but in 2003 with the Yankees, he wasn't quite so impressive: 2.86 ERA, 1.21 WHIP. Actually, when you compare stats from the two years, most stats only decline a little bit, except one: in 2002 the slugging % against him was insanely low: .261. In 2003, that jumped to .407. And that's kinda worrisome in one of the few guys left in the majors who are older than I am.
So he's a nice addition to a bullpen, but he's not a closer, either. More trade bait? I kinda hope so. If he ends up on the A's, I swear I'm gonna have The Hammond Song stuck in my head every time he warms up in the bullpen:
If you go down to Hammond
If you go with that fella
Posted by: Ken / 11:06 PM |
Tejada An Oriole
Rules for not alienating A's fans when you leave for another team:
Tejada passes the test! He signed with the Orioles, which assures him of not getting the Jason Giambi treatment when he returns as an opposing player. I would be surprised if he didn't get a standing ovation in his first at-bat in Oakland.
He got a six-year deal for around $10M per year. Getting the long-term contract he wanted in this market is pretty good. I'm happy for him. Good luck, Miguel, and thanks for all the good times.
Baltimore finished in the bottom half of the standings, so the A's will get a supplemental round pick and a second-round pick from the Orioles, instead of the late first-round pick had Tejada signed with a winning team. With the picks from Boston for signing Foulke, the A's will have two first round picks, two supplemental picks, and two second-round picks in the 2004 draft.
In other news, it looks like Arthur Rhodes may indeed be heading to Oakland, as the A's are pursuing him to be their closer. It seems like a good fit. The Braves appear to be the primary competition. I hope it's true that he's coming; we've finished second in free agent races twice this week already.
But all my disappointment will vanish if this report is true: Hank Greenwald coming out of retirement to do 60-70 A's games on TV. All I can say to that is: YIPPEE! With Greenwald on the air, watching the A's will be pleasurable even if the team sucks. I love Hank Greenwald.
STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 01
12 09 08 01
12 11 10 09 08
Ken: catfish AT zombia d.o.t. com
Ken's Greatest Hits
28 Aug 2003
12 Jan 2004
31 May 2005
11 May 2005
29 Jun 2005
8 Jun 2005
19 Jul 2005
11 Aug 2005
7 Sep 2005
20 Sep 2005
22 Sep 2005
26 Sep 2005
28 Sep 2005
29 Sep 2005
18 Oct 2005
9 Nov 2005
15 Nov 2005
20 Nov 2005
13 Dec 2005
19 Jan 2006
28 Jan 2006
21 Feb 2006
10 Apr 2006
16 Apr 2006
22 Apr 2006
7 May 2006
25 May 2006
31 May 2006
18 Jun 2006
22 Jun 2006
6 Jul 2006
17 Jul 2006
13 Aug 2006
15 Aug 2006
16 Aug 2006
20 Aug 2006
11 Oct 2006
31 Oct 2006
29 Dec 2006
4 Jan 2006
12 Jan 2006
27 Jan 2007
17 Feb 2007
30 Apr 2007
27 Aug 2007
5 Sep 2007
19 Oct 2007
23 Nov 2007
5 Jan 2008
16 Jan 2008
4 Feb 2008
7 May 2008
20 Jun 2008
4 Feb 2008