Category Archives: Positional Ranking

All Star Picks Part 3

Today is the last installment of this series and the only position not covered is pitching.  Apparently fans do not vote on this and it’s decided by the team managers and the commissioner of baseball.  We’re going to split pitchers into starters and relievers.  Starters pitch a lot of innings so the good ones can build up enough value to contend for top of the league status.   A relief pitcher has to pitch lights out, very low ERA because they don’t accrue nearly as many innings pitched.  A team needs relievers with very very low ERA because they need zeros put up on the board in the later innings, no matter which inning that is.

That said,  the number one most valuable player in the history of MLB playoffs is Mariano Rivera.  He beats out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, everyone.  We’ll discuss playoff rankings sometime later.  Relievers do top the league sometime.  For example, on this day in 1977 this guy was ranked #6.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+006+ 5.27 Bruce_Sutter_CHN PITCH  7/1/1977

Plop plop fizz fizz oh what a relief it is.  At 5.27 he’s the same value as our top pick for AL starter this season.

Here are the top ten starters in MLB as of all games up to and including yesterday.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+001+ 5.98 Max_Scherzer_WAS PITCH
+004+ 5.27 Jason_Vargas_KCA PITCH
+005+ 5.14 Clayton_Kershaw_LAN PITCH
+006+ 4.56 Dallas_Keuchel_HOU PITCH
+010+ 4.12 Chris_Sale_BOS PITCH
+011+ 4.09 Alex_Wood_LAN PITCH
+016+ 3.57 Carlos_Martinez_SLN PITCH
+017+ 3.53 Ervin_Santana_MIN PITCH
+021+ 3.38 Gio_Gonzalez_WAS PITCH
+022+ 3.32 Mike_Leake_SLN PITCH

Ervin Santana topped the league at the end of May and now he’s #17.  It’s hard staying on top and few pitchers can do it consistently.  One of them is Clayton Kershaw.  The blue and tan highlights show our top pick and then secondary starter.  All these pitchers are good enough to be considered All Stars.  Now let’s look at relief.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+020+ 3.38 Felipe_Rivero_PIT PITCH
+030+ 2.88 Pat_Neshek_PHI PITCH
+031+ 2.86 Andrew_Miller_CLE PITCH
+033+ 2.83 Corey_Knebel_MIL PITCH
+039+ 2.75 Craig_Kimbrel_BOS PITCH
+041+ 2.71 Kenley_Jansen_LAN PITCH
+049+ 2.56 Joe_Kelly_BOS PITCH
+051+ 2.50 Archie_Bradley_ARI PITCH
+054+ 2.46 Raisel_Iglesias_CIN PITCH
+056+ 2.37 Nick_Goody_CLE PITCH

Cubs faced Andrew Miller in the World Series and he’s top reliever for AL.  Since Cleveland’s   Terry Francona might be making this pick what will he do?   If none of these players cared about the All Star Game then he would be better off letting Miller rest his arm and take an ASG vacation.  That would only make sense if his team might go to the World Series again which they are poised to do.  Let’s check CLE out.

BAT PITCH Rs Ra W L UR LR TeamID
-2.9 50.8 371 315 42 36 6.9 1.2 CLE

Very good pitching, very good UR (i.e. fielding), and they’re +6.  Cleveland is  in the hunt again for a World Series trophy.   Here are the Indians in the top 100.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+031+ 2.86 Andrew_Miller_CLE PITCH
+038+ 2.75 Corey_Kluber_CLE PITCH
+055+ 2.39 Lonnie_Chisenhall_CLE RF-CF
+056+ 2.37 Nick_Goody_CLE PITCH
+079+ 1.99 Bryan_Shaw_CLE PITCH
+100+ 1.74 Carlos_Carrasco_CLE PITCH

CLE has the top relief staff in MLB now and all season long.  Their relief WAA=+10 and, like the Cubs, they are carrying this team.  If that staff played at a WAA=0, or completely average, they would be 4 games under instead of 6 games up.   We’ll see how this plays out in the second half of the season.

That is all for All Stars this year.  We’ll do Iowa Cubs sometime next week to see what Kyle Schwarber is up to.  Until then….

All Star Picks Part 2

Today we’ll show the picks produced by this data model for the positions of shortstop, catcher, and the grab bag  of outfielders.  So let’s start with shortstops.  Here are the top ten shortstops in MLB.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+034+ 2.75 Carlos_Correa_HOU SS
+052+ 2.37 Corey_Seager_LAN SS
+153+ 1.28 Trea_Turner_WAS SS
+157+ 1.24 Elvis_Andrus_TEX SS
+169+ 1.20 Zack_Cozart_CIN SS
XXXXX 0.92 Chris_Owings_ARI SS-RF-2B
XXXXX 0.76 Pat_Valaika_COL SS
XXXXX 0.67 Xander_Bogaerts_BOS SS
XXXXX 0.59 Alexi_Amarista_COL SS
XXXXX 0.55 Addison_Russell_CHN SS

Value for SS drops off much faster than for 2B which we showed in Part 1.  The current AL leader in fan voting is Correa and NL it’s Zack Cozart.  Cozart is ranked #27 with WAR and we have him at #169.  Scanning his stats he looks like a Draft Kings team owner pick.

Catcher is the most important defensive position on the field.  He’s involved in every pitch.  The tables here are a value measure for offense only but that’s all we have.  Let’s look at the top ten catchers in MLB.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+032+ 2.81 Gary_Sanchez_NYA CR
+043+ 2.58 Craig_Kimbrel_BOS PITCH
+076+ 1.99 Robinson_Chirinos_TEX CR
+107+ 1.68 Brian_McCann_HOU CR
+151+ 1.32 Mike_Zunino_SEA CR
+170+ 1.20 Evan_Gattis_HOU CR-DH
+188+ 1.03 Chris_Iannetta_ARI CR
XXXXX 0.76 Chris_Herrmann_ARI CR-LF
XXXXX 0.73 Travis_d’Arnaud_NYN CR
XXXXX 0.71 Jesus_Sucre_TBA CR

Edit: This is what happens when software does so much.  Craig Kimbrel is a very good pitcher for Boston, not a catcher.  Somehow the Cr in his first name Craig triggered the inclusion.  Not sure why I didn’t catch this.

NL fan voting has picked Buster Posey so far and AL it’s Salvador Perez, neither are in the above list.  The value in the above list drops off quickly.  Let’s look at full lines for Perez and Posey.

Rank WAA BA OBP PA RBI R Name_TeamID Pos
XXXXX 0.13 0.344 0.422 282 33 33 Buster_Posey_SFN CR-1B
XXXXX 0.69 0.289 0.320 273 45 31 Salvador_Perez_KCA CR-DH

Posey has an extremely high BA and OBP so his estimated run creation must be high.  WAR has him ranked #33.   WAR has Perez ranked #147.  Catcher is the only defensive position where a sub average WAA is perfectly OK.   If a team wants to invest offense in a catcher they should at least know what they’re investing.

And finally, let’s do outfielders.  MLB chooses 3 outfielders from a pool so we’ll show the top 20 OF, regardless of their actual position.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+003+ 5.54 Aaron_Judge_NYA RF
+006+ 4.58 Cody_Bellinger_LAN LF-1B
+009+ 4.22 Bryce_Harper_WAS RF
+012+ 3.78 Charlie_Blackmon_COL CF
+017+ 3.49 George_Springer_HOU CF-RF
+045+ 2.58 Mike_Trout_ANA CF
+046+ 2.54 Michael_Conforto_NYN LF-CF
+047+ 2.52 Justin_Upton_DET LF
+053+ 2.37 Lonnie_Chisenhall_CLE RF-CF
+055+ 2.33 Marwin_Gonzalez_HOU LF-1B-3B
+065+ 2.10 Marcell_Ozuna_MIA LF
+066+ 2.10 Adam_Duvall_CIN LF
+068+ 2.08 Aaron_Hicks_NYA CF-LF
+071+ 2.04 Jay_Bruce_NYN RF
+074+ 2.02 Giancarlo_Stanton_MIA RF
+082+ 1.91 Jake_Marisnick_HOU CF
+089+ 1.81 Steven_Souza_TBA RF
+092+ 1.78 Khris_Davis_OAK LF-DH
+097+ 1.76 J.D._Martinez_DET RF
+102+ 1.70 Avisail_Garcia_CHA RF

The 6 players in bold are  OF picks by this data model.  The regular colored entries are secondary picks.     AL  fans picked Judge, Trout, and Springer and NL  picked Harper, Blackmon, and Heyward(?????).  Zobrist is fourth???? This is the strangest outcome of any position so far.  Even Kyle Schwarber is listed at #8.  Our #1 pick, Bellinger, isn’t even listed.  They have Puig listed higher than him.  At least we were 3 for 3 with the AL picks.  What is wrong with NL voters?

That is all.  We skip DH because we don’t believe in the DH.  Pitchers should learn how to hit because it’s part of baseball and part of baseball history.  The highest ranking player in the history of baseball, Babe Ruth, was a very good and talented pitcher.

All Star Picks Part 1

Voting for All Stars is almost complete.  Today in part one we’ll show our picks for 1B, 2B, and 3B.  In part 2 we’ll do SS and Catcher which are more defensive positions and outfield which is a grab bag of a lot of players.  In part 3, pitchers but that can easily be discerned by looking at the top ten posted earlier.  We’ll rank relievers even though they put mostly starters or major closers as relievers in the ASG.  Middle relief where most heavy lifting occurs often gets ignored.

Everything in this model revolves around runs scored.  Fielding is often measured by runs that should have scored but didn’t (i.e. imaginary runs).  There is value in fielding and it can somewhat be measured with stats like errors and unearned runs and perhaps to some extent UZR (we’ll touch on that later).   There is no way to accurately place a value on imaginary runs like you can with real runs.  It is appropriate to adjust our rankings based upon  fielding.  For positions like Catcher fielding is extremely important,  It doesn’t matter if your catcher can’t hit  as long as he gets along with his pitchers,  they pitch well because of him, and he  keeps players from running around the bases.  That is very hard.  Other attributes like leadership also can’t be modeled mathematically.   Successful leaders find a way to get everyone working together to help their team  succeed.   This success derives  from human experience. not manipulating  big data.

That said, let’s get to it.  Here are your top ten first basemen according to this data model.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+001+ 5.75 Paul_Goldschmidt_ARI 1B
+005+ 4.66 Ryan_Zimmerman_WAS 1B
+023+ 3.09 Mark_Reynolds_COL 1B
+025+ 3.02 Joey_Votto_CIN 1B
+026+ 3.00 Logan_Morrison_TBA 1B
+051+ 2.42 Justin_Smoak_TOR 1B
+060+ 2.25 Eric_Thames_MIL 1B-LF
+066+ 2.16 Freddie_Freeman_ATL 1B
+076+ 2.10 Matt_Adams_ATL 1B
+080+ 1.85 Justin_Bour_MIA 1B

The blue above are NL, tan AL, and it looks like most all the best first basemen are NL this season.  The current NL leaders are Zimmerman and Hosmer of KCA.  Zimmerman is close enough in value but who is Hosmer?

Rank WAA BA OBP PA RBI R Name_TeamID Pos
XXXXX -0.69 0.302 0.359 309 32 40 Eric_Hosmer_KCA 1B

OK.  Whatever.  Fans vote for this and everyone loves the batting average and Hosmer is over the magical 0.300 line so he’s good.   Even WAR has him ranked #217 with a WAR=1.1.

Here are your top second basemen this season.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+017+ 3.32 Daniel_Murphy_WAS 2B
+031+ 2.83 Scooter_Gennett_CIN 2B
+053+ 2.37 Starlin_Castro_NYA 2B
+067+ 2.14 Robinson_Cano_SEA 2B
+079+ 1.87 Jonathan_Schoop_BAL 2B
+085+ 1.83 Chris_Taylor_LAN 2B-CF-LF
+198+ 0.97 Jose_Altuve_HOU 2B
XXXXX 0.82 Neil_Walker_NYN 2B
XXXXX 0.61 Javier_Baez_CHN 2B-SS
XXXXX 0.40 Eric_Sogard_MIL 2B

Jose Altuve is the fan leader for AL but at least he’s in the top ten.  Murphy is leading for NL.   This is the first time Starlin Castro truly belongs in an All Star game and as the starting AL shortstop second base.  Ironically he’ll be thwarted by the same Draft Kings team owners who put him in the ASG as a Cub all those years ago.

Notice how  value drops off in the 2B list compared to the 1B list.  1B and 3B are usually big hitters, 2B and SS are more defensive guys.  2B is less of a defensive asset than SS which is why, as far as I know, Maddon hasn’t made Bryant play SS yet.  This is why we’ll do SS and Catchers in part 2.

And finally, here are the top ten third basemen.

Rank WAA Name_TeamID Pos
+014+ 3.59 Jake_Lamb_ARI 3B
+020+ 3.13 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B
+032+ 2.81 Miguel_Sano_MIN 3B-DH
+048+ 2.44 Travis_Shaw_MIL 3B
+061+ 2.25 Joey_Gallo_TEX 3B-1B
+089+ 1.78 Anthony_Rendon_WAS 3B
+139+ 1.39 Eugenio_Suarez_CIN 3B
+147+ 1.32 Evan_Longoria_TBA 3B
+166+ 1.20 Jose_Ramirez_CLE 3B-2B
+197+ 0.99 Mike_Moustakas_KCA 3B

AL fans are going with with Miguel Sano and for NL it’s Kris Bryant.  Kris was NL MVP for 2016 leading the Chicago Cubs to a World Series victory.  Even if he isn’t in that above list, sorry Jake Lamb, it doesn’t matter.   He deserves to start at third.

That is all for today.  The weekly State of the Cubs tomorrow and part 2 the day after.  Until then….

Who should be in the All Star game?

We’re over a month away from the All Star game but voting has begun and lots of Cubs top the list. Let’s look at rankings for the various positions.

Shortstop

+016+ 3.38 Xander_Bogaerts_BOS SS
+048+ 2.35 Aledmys_Diaz_SLN SS
+051+ 2.29 Manny_Machado_BAL SS-3B
+066+ 2.08 Trevor_Story_COL SS
+109+ 1.51 Corey_Seager_LAN SS
+179+ 0.97 Francisco_Lindor_CLE SS
XXXXX 0.63 Addison_Russell_CHN SS

This model is batting only so whatever your opinion on defensive capabilities of these players should move them up or down. Without event data I can’t count numbers of unearned runs given up by a fielder.

The last news blurb I read said Russell is leading the SS pack for NL. Too bad Aledmys Diaz and  Trevor Story.  Russell is currently out of the top 200 but still above average with WAA=0.63..

3B

+007+ 4.26 Nolan_Arenado_COL 3B
+012+ 3.44 Josh_Donaldson_TOR 3B
+020+ 3.09 Kris_Bryant_CHN 3B-LF
+028+ 2.77 Matt_Carpenter_SLN 3B
+055+ 2.21 Todd_Frazier_CHA 3B
+063+ 2.10 Kyle_Seager_SEA 3B
+071+ 1.95 Jake_Lamb_ARI 3B

Yikes. Even Bryant is being beat but both players are fairly close. Frazier won’t get picked  because he has a low batting average so the Fangraph crowd probably won’t like him.  The Fangraph crowd also doesn’t like anyone on the Rockies because they think it’s the ballpark that gives them all the hits.  This is fodder for another discussion about proving your crackpot theories which Fangraph folks never do.

2B

+010+ 3.76 Ian_Kinsler_DET 2B
+011+ 3.72 Robinson_Cano_SEA 2B
+030+ 2.75 Ben_Zobrist_CHN 2B
+058+ 2.16 Daniel_Murphy_WAS 2B
+070+ 1.95 Jose_Altuve_HOU 2B
+080+ 1.85 Rougned_Odor_TEX 2B

Hooray for Zobrist but Murphy is right on his heels. Cano is earning his salary this season by having a career year even though WAR doesn’t think so.

1B

+025+ 2.79 Anthony_Rizzo_CHN 1B
+026+ 2.79 Mike_Napoli_CLE 1B-DH
+032+ 2.73 Brandon_Moss_SLN 1B-LF-RF
+045+ 2.37 Chris_Davis_BAL 1B
+079+ 1.85 Wil_Myers_SDN 1B
+083+ 1.85 Matt_Adams_SLN 1B

Hooray for Rizzo. He used to be in the top ten a few weeks ago.

Catcher

+085+ 1.83 Wilson_Ramos_WAS CR
+094+ 1.68 Chris_Herrmann_ARI CR
+134+ 1.34 Buster_Posey_SFN CR
+150+ 1.22 Craig_Kimbrel_BOS PITCH
+198+ 0.86 David_Ross_CHN CR

Catcher is the most important defensive position other than pitcher so batting numbers should not matter as much. That said Ross is having a far better year than last season and Cubs pitchers seem to like him and have been pitching well with him.

LF

+027+ 2.79 Adam_Duvall_CIN LF
+097+ 1.62 Khris_Davis_OAK LF-DH
+098+ 1.60 Jayson_Werth_WAS LF
...
+160+ 1.11 Ryan_Braun_MIL LF

Left Fielders aren’t too good this season. Now you see how Braun performs when not hopped up on roids.

CF

+033+ 2.65 Ian_Desmond_TEX CF-LF
+036+ 2.58 Jackie_Bradley_BOS CF
+037+ 2.56 Mike_Trout_ANA CF
+056+ 2.21 Yoenis_Cespedes_NYN CF-LF
+074+ 1.91 Marcell_Ozuna_MIA CF

Before someone asks where’s Dexter Fowler, he’s slipping. No way he should beat
Cespedes.

XXXXX 0.48 Dexter_Fowler_CHN CF

He fell out of the top 200 and his WAA is falling. His OPS is good however. :-)

RF

+009+ 4.16 Mookie_Betts_BOS RF
+013+ 3.42 Jay_Bruce_CIN RF
+039+ 2.50 Gregory_Polanco_PIT RF-LF
+047+ 2.35 Carlos_Beltran_NYA RF-DH
+062+ 2.12 Carlos_Gonzalez_COL RF
+073+ 1.93 Jose_Bautista_TOR RF
+076+ 1.89 Bryce_Harper_WAS RF
+082+ 1.85 Hunter_Pence_SFN RF
+090+ 1.74 George_Springer_HOU RF
+096+ 1.62 Stephen_Piscotty_SLN RF

No Cubs but a lot of good Right Fielders this season.
<anti jinx on>
For once the Cubs will have a vested interest in the outcome of an All Star game.
</anti jinx off>

Should the Cubs trade Starlin Castro?

Should the Cubs trade Starlin Castro is now the big question this off season.  Shortstops typically are the worst hitters of all non-pitching positions so finding one who can  even bat at an  average player level is a plus for any team. The table below lists the top 15 shortstops according to this data model. Note that the weighting factor this model produces is for batting only. Fielding is a different class object.

As always the first column shows MLB total rank amongst both batters and pitchers.  There are 27 other players with better WAAs than Troy Tulowitzki.   Ranking maxes out at 300 so a rank of X means that player sits in purgatory between the top 300 and the bottom 300.  No one wants to make the bottom 300 list.

Rank WAA BA OBP PA RBI R Name_Tm Pos
28 5.0 0.340 0.432 375 52 71 Troy_Tulowitzki_COL SS
82 3.3 0.255 0.313 648 91 73 Ian_Desmond_WAS SS
85 3.3 0.283 0.369 512 71 64 Hanley_Ramirez_LAN SS
178 1.9 0.273 0.305 657 74 82 Alexei_Ramirez_CHA SS
220 1.5 0.278 0.321 642 68 77 Erick_Aybar_ANA SS
X 0.9 0.287 0.328 655 51 94 Jose_Reyes_TOR SS
X 0.9 0.246 0.305 416 40 54 Asdrubal_Cabrera_CLE SS
X 0.7 0.243 0.323 609 55 78 Jimmy_Rollins_PHI SS
X 0.7 0.241 0.307 616 61 74 Asdrubal_Cabrera_TOT SS-2B
X 0.6 0.269 0.323 342 33 44 Josh_Rutledge_COL SS-2B
X 0.4 0.246 0.324 564 69 54 Brandon_Crawford_SFN SS
X 0.4 0.263 0.336 628 75 61 Jhonny_Peralta_SLN SS
X 0.4 0.292 0.339 569 65 58 Starlin_Castro_CHN SS
X 0.2 0.278 0.300 100 9 14 Gregorio_Petit_HOU SS-3B
X 0.1 0.133 0.188 16 1 3 Carlos_Triunfel_LAN SS

Here is Starlin Castro’s career up to the beginning of the 2014 season.

Starlin Castro 2010-2013

Year WAA BA OBP PA RBI R Name_Tm Pos Rank Score
2010 -2.2 0.300 0.347 506 41 53 Starlin_Castro_CHN SS 113 -188
2011 -0.1 0.307 0.341 715 66 91 Starlin_Castro_CHN SS X 0
2012 -0.3 0.283 0.323 691 78 78 Starlin_Castro_CHN SS X 0
2013 -5.5 0.245 0.284 705 44 59 Starlin_Castro_CHN SS 10 -291

Career WAA BAT Value = -8.1

Career WAA Ranking Score = -479

He had a very bad 2013 and was the worst batter in the league.  Much of this had to do with a manager who insisted on making Castro lead off so he kept racking up more unproductive plate appearances than had he batted near the end of the order or sat out a bunch of games.   Castro batted above average with a WAA=0.4 in 2014 so that helps mitigate his overall career negative value.

Here is what WAR thinks of him.

Extended Stats

Year WAR AB HR SB Name_Tm Score RISP UR E
2010 1.4 463 3 10 Starlin_Castro_CHN 2 -1.4 9 27
2011 3.0 674 10 22 Starlin_Castro_CHN 182 -4.0 15 29
2012 3.6 646 14 25 Starlin_Castro_CHN 222 7.6 11 27
2013 -0.6 666 10 9 Starlin_Castro_CHN -147 -17.8 11 22

Career WAR BAT Value = 7.4

Career WAR Ranking Score = 259

WAR is a forgiving stat and even though Castro led the league in errors (last column) and giving up unearned runs, it still valued him quite high.  We covered WAA vs. WAR valuation systems with an analysis of the 2013 season here.  In 2013 even WAR had to drop him into negative territory.  The RISP column is runs above average in Runners In Scoring Position situations.  Castro led the league in having the highest negative in this category.

If the Cubs look at this model there is no question as  to the risk in keeping Castro around since he has demonstrated very high negative value in his career.  If a buyer, like the New York Mets, come along looking at Castro’s WAR numbers then maybe they will give away some decent talent in exchange for the Cubs’ mitigating some of the risk involved in keeping Castro on the roster.