Monday, May 02, 2005


Mike Cameron or Victor Diaz?

When Mike Cameron returns from his wrist injury and rehabilitation, it will be time for manager Willie Randolph to make some important decisions. Cliff Floyd is healthy (at the moment) and hitting the ball well, Victor Diaz is sporting an impressive line (and showing plate patience, which he never used to seem to have) and that Carlos Beltran guy in centerfield. How do you mix in at-bats for Floyd, Cameron, and Diaz? Normally the answer would be simple, as Floyd would get hurt and open the doors for someone much less talented than Diaz in the outfield. If Floyd does manage to stay healthy though (which I assume will happen since the Mets now have an influx of talented outfielders rather than a shortage) and Cameron is the one getting paid to play right field, than where does Diaz fit in? Diaz and Cameron are both right handed hitters by the way, so no platoon between the two. Let's compare Floyd and Diaz's 2004's, their 2005 seasons and Mike Cameron's PECOTA projection and 2004 stats:

Cliff Floyd 2004

Victor Diaz 2004
Norfolk (AAA): .292/.332/.491; Major League Equivalent: .280/.322/.468
NYM (MLB): .294/.321/.529

Mike Cameron 2004

Based on the 2004 numbers, I'd rather have Floyd and Victor Diaz. Cameron was healthier than Floyd, but his defense in centerfield dropped from excellent (14 FRAA) to slightly above average at 5 FRAA. Now right field, where Cameron would play in 2005, is more of a hitter's position than centerfield, and thus Cameron would have to increase his performance even more in order to compensate. Not to mention his defense is not as valuable in right as it may be in center. Let's look at those 2005 numbers:

Floyd: .366/.438/.634
Diaz: .292/.432/.538
Cameron (PECOTA): .250/.342/.457

Cameron is once again the odd man out. Some notes: Floyd is hitting for power but much of his value is tied up in his batting average now. He has a batting average close to 70 points higher than Diaz's, but with an OBP only 6 points higher. Look for Floyd to fall down to a .295/.370/.570 level at his best, which of course, is excellent. Diaz seems to be wowing everyone, and now that he has plate patience (if it lasts) then he is the most valuable of these three, especially considering his age and progressive abilities.

At the moment, Diaz has a BB/PA ratio of .185, as compared to his 2004 minor league walk BB/PA of .055 or even his major league debut of .020 in 53 PA (one walk). This shows some promise, considering with 15 BB's he is almost halfway to his 2004 total of 32. He's also 23 years old and inexpensive.

Cameron on the other hand is the inverse at 32 years old, expensive, and not even playing the position where his value would be the highest. Just to see the value of these three players expressed prior to their 2005 season, let's take a look at their projected MLVr:

Floyd: .089 MLVr
Diaz: -0.43 MLVR
Cameron: .012 MLVr

Diaz of course has already begun to outperform his 50th percentile projection by wide margin. His 90th percentile rate is what we will focus on now (line of .303/.356/.514): The 90th percentile MLVr for Diaz is .158, or better than Cameron's established level of play. Cameron's MLVr scores for the past three years:

2002: .037
2003: .025
2004: .039

Granted Seattle probably suppressed his numbers somewhat, but when brought to Shea they only improved slightly. Basically I'm so confident he will not reach his 90th percentile projection of .293/.392/.534 that I will wear a Yankees hat for the 2006 season if he comes close. His 90th percentile projection is greater than Diaz's, but his chances of reaching it are much less, especially considering Diaz seems to have finally established some plate patience, which will make his outperforming the high-end projection easy if given the playing time. And therein lies the issue at hand, which should and hopefully will be solved quickly by allowing Cameron to play and then trading him once he shows he has some value to fill some holes the Mets have. The first two months are to see what you have, the next two months are to get what you need, and the last two months are to play with that team...the Mets will have to follow Beane's philosophy in those regards if they hope to do more than be a contender for the NL East Crown.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Victor Zambrano

After the most recent debacle from Mr. Zambrano, we see a hearty 5.81 ERA through 5 starts, through which he's averaged less than 5.1 IP in each one. Here's some info, though:

4/8: 5 IP, 2 ER
4/14: 6 IP, 3 ER
4/19: 6 IP, 2 ER
4/24: 5.1 IP, 7 ER
4/30: 4 IP, 4 ER

The two most recent starts are abysmal, but the first three weren't too bad. Looking further, though, we see the problem.

4/8: 5 IP, 10 runners
4/14: 6 IP, 13 runners
4/19: 6 IP, 11 runners
4/24: 5.1 IP, 14 runners
4/30: 4 IP, 9 runners

This is a bit too many. Opponents are putting up a .316/.429/.469 line on VZ, another absurdity.

But we see some bright spots. There aren't many, but we can dig deep.

Zambrano's .153 IsoP allowed isn't awful. Using some zero-sum game-theory type analysis (what's bad for one is good for another), we can see that a .153 IsoP, in 2004, was about where Shea Hillenbrand, Jody Gerut, Jeff Conine, and Jack Wilson were. These aren't bad names. Currently, the NL's average IsoP is .150, so VZ is right there. (I like to use IsoP over HR/9 most of the time just b/c I think that pitchers have some manner of control over EBHs).

The BABIP is also a very, very, very high .364. And Prospectus tags it higher; my estimate is at .364. The walk totals have been very high, but the hits are also way up. At this point, it's good to take a step back and think of DIPS logically. Can a pitcher dictate where a ball is hit? For the most part, no. If you're throwing pitches down the middle, however, you can count on them being hit harder. And DIPS, to me, is a measure that is most effective over larger samples.

The way I actually look at DIPS is regardless of what you believe about pitcher control over hits, it's certainly much easier for a pitcher to control his Ks, BBs, and HRs. So we look at that as a more effective measure of a pitcher's most relevant skills. Your degree of acceptance of DIPS is up to you, I guess.

So I attribute his high BABIP to mainly luck but partially his own fault. Hell, sample size makes it fairly irrelevant, too, but it is a reason why he's done SO poorly.

Even though Zambrano is walking everyone (5.65 BB/9), when he IS managing to get people out, the K is involved frequently. He's averaging 7.67 K/9. The FIP is also lower than his ERA at a surprising 4.87 (manageable home run totals and the high Ks are helping).

I supported the Zambrano trade with a few reservations back when it happened for a couple reasons:

- I am and remain very skeptical of pretty much every pitching prospect, especially those who do not post impeccable control figures (Joe Blanton in 03-04 qualifies; Scott Kazmir does not).
- I think that Kazmir, based on his size, will blow out his arm.
- And I wrote this back on what is now known as Black Friday:

"Talk about high prices. When did Victor Zambrano become so freaking good? Well, he's pretty hard to hit; he's not allowing a high opponents batting average at all. His problem? Control. He walks more men than a lot of Little Leaguers, it seems. The Mets have to like his age and stuff, the former being 28, and the latter being a mid-90s fastball, a good changeup, and a slider. Someone in the Met organization really likes Zambrano, because Scott Kazmir became "touchable." Kazmir throws mid to high 90s as well, is young, and has dominated AA over the last month or so. In 4 starts in AA, he's got a 1.73 ERA, and he's not walking all that many. Also striking out everybody. The Mets are supposedly worried about his health...I've gotta give the D'Rays the slight edge on this deal in particular.... "

As you can see, I took a leap of faith. Ignoring the evidence, I opted to go with the fact that "God, the Mets can't be that stupid, can they?"

I still don't believe that Zambrano is a lost cause. And, unfortunately, his case is out of the realm of statistical analysis, because mechanically, if Rick Peterson can ever get Zambrano to do whatever it was that persuaded him into the "10 minute fix," it becomes better.

What it boils down to, though, is what I failed to see back in '04: regardless of what happens with Kazmir, the Mets probably sold him for a lot less than they could have gotten. This is why the Zambrano trade will always be a poor one: other GMs, I can assume, would have easily put together a package better than Zambrano if they'd known that Kazmir was available.

To me, Kazmir SHOULD have been available (for the right price), but that's because I tend to think that most pitching prospects can fetch their best value in trade while they're prospects. Many "can't miss" prospects do fail. But when the best you can do is Zambrano? Ick.


This wasn't supposed to become a rant.

I'm still holding out hope for Zambrano, because the indicators aren't all bad. But there's going to come a point where the Mets will be changing around their rotation, for when Benson and Trachsel comes back or they want to break Petit / Bannister into the rotation come August or September. Zambrano could easily become an odd-man out, especially if Heilman pitches well.

Next, as a bit of an aside, Heilman's four starts have generated some nice peripherals, most notably the 1.8 BB/9. He keeps that up, Heilman's going to be OK, especially the way he's been throwing.

And, finally, CMW pitched well in his first outing, beating anything Jaret Wright has done so far and proving how good the Yankees are at wasting money.


AL Roundup, 5/1/05

The second edition of my 2005 AL Roundup series; remember, these are coming every other week, with the NL Roundup filling in the other weeks. It gives it some time in between the posts, and allows records to develop as well as rankings. On to the numbers again...

AL East Actual Standings
1) Baltimore 16-7 (.696) 137 RS, 109 RA
2) Boston 12-11 (.522) 130 RS, 104 RA
3) Toronto 13-12 (.520) 122 RS, 118 RA
4) New York 10-14 (.417) 123 RS, 129 RA
5) Tampa Bay 8-16 (.333) 105 RS, 153 RA

AL East Pythagenport
1) Baltimore 115-47 (.713)
2) Boston 114-48 (.707)
3) Toronto 86-76 (.533)
4) New York 73-89 (.453)
5) Tampa Bay 30-132 (.183)

Oddly enough, the pythagenport standings are in the same order as the actual standings, even though Baltimore and Boston are much more dominant in their pythagenport ones. I do not expect Baltimore to win 115 games, but I also do not expect Boston to win 114. Toronto at 86-76 seems to be at the high end of their projection, but it is something they are capable of. New York's projection would be nice to see, but I do not think they will continue to lose at the rate they have. Do I think they have a chance at missing the playoffs? Well that all depends on whether or not Baltimore is for real or not. If Baltimore is able to win 90 games somehow, by keeping their fast start over a two month span and playing .500 ball the rest of the way (like the 2003 Royals, except with two months of great ball as opposed to one) they may be able to keep ahead of New York, who may continue their poor play for a few more weeks. Tampa Bay is the only team I expect to continue to play poorly, but not as poorly as they have so far. 100 losses is definitely a possibility though.

AL Central Actual Standings
1) Chicago 17-7 (.708) 106 RS, 81 RA
2) Minnesota 15-8 (.652) 113 RS, 93 RA
3) Detroit 11-11 (.500) 121 RS, 98 RA
4) Cleveland 9-14 (.391) 86 RS, 102 RA
5) Kansas City 6-18 (.250) 88 RS, 135 RA

AL Central Pythagenport
1) Chicago 119-43 (.738)
2) Detroit 113-49 (.697)
3) Minnesota 110-52 (.681)
4) Cleveland 55-107 (.341)
5) Kansas City 26-136 (.158)

Chicago is the 2003 Royals again; wait until the pitching stops coming. The hitting is not as awful as it has been, but the pitching is nowhere near this good. Tomorrow I'll do an article comparing the Chicago rotations current numbers as compared to their career averages. I can see Detroit winning 80+ games, but not enough to make a difference; third place for them. Minnesota is probably going to win the division (I know its early, but Cleveland is still the next best team in the division in my mind and they are not doing enough with the bat at the moment). Kansas City...well...don't aspire to this.

AL West Actual Standings
1) LA Angels 13-11 (.542) 110 RS, 103 RA
2) Oakland 12-12 (.500) 89 RS, 101 RA
3) Seattle 12-12 (.500) 108 RS, 101 RA
4) Texas 12-13 (.480) 123 RS, 136 RA

AL West Pythagenport
1) Seattle 92-70 (.566)
2) LA Angels 91-71 (.564)
3) Texas 65-97 (.402)
4) Oakland 62-100 (.381)

I don't see Seattle's rotation holding up in the long term: Gil Meche is already starting to feel sore, which is never a good sign, and I have not heard anything positive about Bobby Madstritch's condition yet. Jamie Moyer's rejuvenation is nice, but he pitched well in the first half last year too, so we'll see if he just doesn't have the gas to go a full season anymore. Seattle might snag second place, but with a win total in the 80's. The Angels have a shot at 91 wins, but I see that as the peak of what they can do as a team, especially with Steve Finley showing his age. Texas' record looks a little harsh, but if Seattle is an 80+ win team, someone in the division needs to lose. Oakland's pythagenport record is completely screwed up right now because of the streak of offensive shutouts they had. Once they start scoring runs again, their record should improve. By the time we get to the next AL Roundup in 2 weeks I bet that they are on pace for 75-80 wins atleast.

There are a lot of interesting scenarios in the AL so far, such as when will Chicago crash and burn (sometime in May I think) and when will Oakland pick it up (around the same time probably). Baltimore is making themselves a player, although they remind me of the 2003 Blue Jays more than anything...lots of offense, but enough pitching?


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