The following images have been prepared as evidence neither for nor against the dismissal of Rays Batting Coach Derek Shelton. The author does not have a dog in the fight other than maintaining intellectual honesty whenever and wherever possible. Dan Szymborski was nice enough to give me his projections from 2004 through 2014, which I will be comparing with actual wOBA figures as calculated by Fangraphs. The far right section of the table shows the percentage difference between projected wOBA and actual wOBA. The population is comprised of all Rays batters to get at least 100 PA in a given season from 2010 – 14, which the discerning reader will notice is essentially the Derek Shelton Era.
All questions or requests for clarification will be ignored. Consider this the author signing off with no further comment.
Good luck out there, chaps.
The cat is starting to get out of the bag as more and more folks realize the Rays just might be cooking with gasoline. This past day saw good reads from Jeff Sullivan giving a very nice overview of what has gone wrong and how that hasn’t really mattered. He astutely noticed that it’s no coincidence that the Rays starters have a nice, shiny ERA, but also lead the league in fewest innings. That means the bullpen has needed to pick up the slack. USA Today’s For The Win blog picked up the torch with a nice little unearthed gem:
And Cash has managed to limit his starters and get plenty of effective innings out of his bullpen without abusing his relievers. Through Tuesday night’s play, Major League pitchers have worked on at least three straight nights a total of 183 times in 2015. The Rays are only responsible for six of those instances — ever so slightly less than their share — and only lefty specialist Xavier Cedeno has done it twice — once for three straight games, once for four.
While the fact itself is incredible I don’t think it goes far enough to show what an incredible job the Rays have done stealing guys some rest as if it were Hell Week. These two fine organizations have started down the rabbit hole and while their torch has dimmed I’d love to light my own and walk around for a while. Maybe see how deep this chamber goes and hope to pan a few gems of our own. Come with me if you seek adventure.
Way back in Spring Training Economist author Dan Rosenheck gave a presentation at the MIT Sloan Conference that shed considerable insight on how to improve projections using small amounts of data to supplement the things that we think we already know. His beef was that while projection systems are pretty good, as is, they do have weak spots when it comes to young players and those who should be expected to have more variance in their projections. He showed that even something as generally thought of as meaningless like Spring Training stats could be incorporated into these projections to improve the results. Here are his slides for those that are curious. People love to talk about how a player is bound to regress or that that guy has outplayed his projections so far. Well, this will sort through HOW MUCH a player has diverged from their projections and the workbook creates a new level of expectation that can be thought of as closer to the truth than either just Zips or just 2015 alone.
Spring training is around a month of mostly sloppy data, but what happens when we use something that is more meaningful like the first two months of the season? Using his method of melding pre-season Zips with 2015 actual data I think we end up with something that is even better.
Updated Zips 6-9 –> Excel Workbook (recommended for formatting)
Here’s a Google Doc for those that prefer that–> Google Doc
I would highly recommend downloading that as it will be easier to follow along from here on out.
The things that Mr. Rosenheck found important were Strikeouts per At Bat, Walks per Plate Appearance, Batting Average on Contact, Isolated Power on Contact, and Stolen Base Attempts per Opportunity. Using his methods we can calculate where Zips thought the player would be on the year, and also, what the player has actually done and we can weight these by the expected ABs or PAs coming into the year with the actual number accrued for every player. If you flip over to the “Summary” tab you will see this very stuff. Here’s a look at the Rays K/AB:
It’s easy to be impressed by Chris Archer. He throws one of the fastest, hardest to square up fastballs in baseball. His slider is an unhittable offering that can only be avoided, not conquered. If he had a third pitch he might not ever allow a man to touch first base for the rest of his life. It’s something he has worked on throughout his career without really developing the pitch much beyond a show-me offering. It may only need be a distraction to be effective, but if he wants to use it as anything other than a surprise pitch then he needs to be able to throw it more often. After throwing a higher percentage of change ups in a game since June of 2013 it’s time to take a look at Chris Archer’s cambio to gauge how it’s developing.
On his way to striking out 12 batters yesterday Archer threw 14 change ups that yielded a total of 2 balls. He induced a pop up, three grounders, a fly ball, and a line drive on eight swings with the other two going for a whiff and a foul. None of these fell for a hit. He got good results from the pitch so can this serve as a turning point or will it prove to be a high water mark that will occasionally be met, but rarely bested? Let’s trace the evolution of this pitch a few different ways to get an idea of whether he’s improving or if the pitch continues to stagnate. I want to start with every single change up that he has thrown in his career and I’ll be using the indispensable Baseball Savant to do so.
The man affectionately nicknamed Assmo (I swear it’s affection) has all of a sudden started to look like a useful piece after looking like a piece of crap upon arrival. The timeline makes a bit of sense as even a maestro like Rays pitching coach/Godhead Jim Hickey needs a bit of time for his magic to take effect. The best time to get through to someone regardless of their troubles is when they’re staring at the bottom willing to try anything that might lead to more success. Erasmo Ramirez knows what it’s like to look in the mirror and hate everything he sees, but with the help of this mentor it looks like he has made some strides. To wit:
I came across this stat earlier today which I found pretty remarkable:
The Rays had allowed 144 FBs 16 H, 14 HR, 2B, 1B 2/130 BIP failed to be caught Good for a 0.015 BABIP
Naturally, I was skeptical. I mean surely, more than 2 fly balls have fallen for hits. I went to the incomparable Baseball Savant and pulled every ball hit against the Rays pitchers. Then I filtered down to what they have labeled as fly balls. This is a work in progress, but I’m mostly able to show where these balls have been hit using their data: