Monday, April 25, 2011

A's Early Use Of Radar Gun

From 1957 comes a story about the Kansas City A's trying out an "electronic scout," better known today as a radar gun. It only weighed 26 pounds!

March 29, 1957 Kansas City Call

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Francoeur's Improved Approach In The Early Going

Jeff Francoeur's six years of terrible plate discipline between 2005-10 made his signing with the Royals a tough pill to swallow for saber-nerds like me. But, while it is still too early to declare him a changed man, the early returns from Frenchy the Royal are encouraging. This could all be a small sample size mirage, but for now, let's hope that hitting coach Kevin Seitzer has worked some Jedi mind tricks on Francoeur and this can keep up through the season.

He has swung at half of the pitches he has seen, which is a significant drop from the 60% swing rate he had last year and even his career low of 56% in 2008. (The 2011 average so far is 45%.) Interestingly, the drop-off in swings is coming mostly on strikes, not balls out of the zone. He is swinging at 39% of balls out of the zone (O-Swing%), which is higher than his career norm. He is being more selective about which pitches in the zone he hacks at, with his Zone-Swing% falling off a cliff all the way to the league-average of 65%. That increased selectivity is resulting into a near-league average swinging strike percentage of 9%.

Not surprisingly, the improved selectivity has resulted in better contact rates. His 83% overall contact rate betters the league average by 2%, his Zone-Contact% is 3% better than league-average, and his Outside-the-zone-Contact% is 6% above average.

Six full years of data certainly carries more weight than the 84 plate appearances his 2011 rates are based on, and he is a near-lock to regress towards his career norms. But these early numbers are surprising, and something to watch as the season marches on.

All numbers from

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Royals Splits, or Jeff Francoeur Should Never Face A Righty

A look at the career wOBA splits of current Royals batsmen:

Amazing that Billy's weaker split is still the second best wOBA against righties on the team (Betemit barely beats him out). Then he adds 57 points to his wOBA against southpaws.

Kila has been the same guy regardless of the pitcher's handedness...unfortunately that guy hasn't been a very good hitter on average.

Three players have backwards splits, where they have done better against same-handed pitchers: Treanor, Maier and Getz. Treanor's is especially extreme.

.325-.330 is a roughly average wOBA. These players straddle the line between "good" and "bad" depending on pitcher handedness: Francoeur, Betemit, Gordon, and Aviles. Perhaps the solution at third base right now would be to start Betemit against righties and Aviles against lefties.

Francoeur's splits especially scream platoon player (though there is no obvious platoon partner on the roster right now):

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kevin Appier: Royals HOFer & Slam Dunk "Ace"

Good news from Royals-land today as Kevin Appier has been elected to the Royals Hall of Fame. He will be honored with a ceremony on June 25 before a game against the Cubs.
There's been some discussion on the interwebs recently about whether or not Appier was an "ace" pitcher. 610 sports radio host Robert Ford wrote a blog post recently about the history of Royals opening day pitchers, and lumped Appier into a class of pitchers he called "second tier." He defined an ace as one of the 10-20 best pitchers in the game, and a second tier guy as "a good, but not great, pitcher who can eat innings and give you a solid outing more often than not." I was flabbergasted that Ford considered Appier a "second tier" pitcher, and questioned him about it on his blog and on Twitter. Ford responded that he stood by it. I posted this screen-cap of the top pitchers by Fangraphs WAR (fWAR) between 1990-97 to Twitter:

clicky to biggy

As you can see, Appier ranks THIRD among all pitchers during his eight years as a healthy player.

hen today when it was announced Appier had been inducted to the Royals Hall, Ford tweeted "Royals announce Kevin Appier will be inducted into their Hall of Fame this season. Expect a 'Kevin Appier: Ace or Not An Ace' show soon." That lead to some more debate about whether or not Appier was an "ace," and Ford said he feels there are "10-15" aces per year, and Appier was often in the 16-20 range. "Ace" is obviously a highly subjective word, but I like Ford's general definition. If you go with 15 aces a year, that is the top 10% of starters in a 30 team league with five man rotations.

So, was Appier a top 15 pitcher, and if so, how many times: How about seven straight seasons? Appier's rank among MLB pitchers by fWAR:

1991: 2

1992: 9
1993: 2
1994: 6
1995: 3
1996: 5
1997: 12

If that is not an ace, I don't know what is. Greg Maddux was the only other pitcher who was a top-15 ace each of those seasons.

Most years as a top 15 fWAR pitcher, 1990-99:

10!: Greg Maddux

8: David Cone, Kevin Brown
7: Kevin Appier, Roger Clemens
6: Chuck Finley, Mike Mussina, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson
5: Jose Rijo

I don't know what Ford's opinion of "new-fangled" stats like WAR is, but Appier looks like an ace using traditional stats too. He was 15th in wins in the '90s, 16th in ERA, and 11th in strikeouts. I assume Appier just didn't "feel" like an ace at the time to some since he was playing on a poor team in a small market. But reality screams "ACE."

If you agree, get out to Kauffman Stadium early on June 25th and give Ape a hand.