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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Continuing The Jim Tracy = Moron Dialogue From Last Night

Joe Sheehan at BPro:
William Burke raised the point in the roundtable that Street had a large reverse-OPS split in 2009. Let's examine that. Bil was right, factually: Street was very effective against left-handed batters in 2009, allowing a .167/.227/.265 line to them in 111 plate appearances. Right-handers hit .217/.244/.375 in 129 PAs. But while the OPS gap is large, it is entirely due to the difference in batting average on balls in play and what happened on fly balls, neither of which is indicative of Street's actual skills. Street allowed a .300 BABIP and five home runs to righties, just .195 and two bombs to lefties. Dan Malkiel ran the numbers and found that the underlying rates of batted balls allowed don't support these splits—they're a fluke. Moreover, Street's non-contact data clearly shows him to have been more effective against right-handed batters: he struck out 36 percent of the right-handed batters he faced, and walked just three righties unintentionally all year long. Compare that to 21 percent of lefties struck out with six unintentional walks allowed in fewer PA. Street is clearly much more effective against right-handed batters.

This is supported by his career data. Street has allowed nearly identical batting averages on balls in play in his career to hitters on both sides of the plate. However, he has struck out a higher percentage of righties and walked them at about half the rate he's walked lefties. He's also allowed much more power—a .151 ISO and 16 homers—to lefties than to righties (.082 and nine). There is no way to read Street's track record and conclude that he's more effective against left-handed batters, and even a cursory look at his pitching style would support that as well.

In the interest of being thorough, let's note that since he returned to the majors as a full-time reliever in 2006, Joe Beimel has held left-handed batters to a .301 OBP with an extra-base hit in about every 14 at-bats.

Given all of that information, how much do you have to believe in the closer myth to have allowed Street to face Howard with the season on the line? You have to believe, basically, that the skill involved in closing games, getting the 27th out, is so large that it makes up the difference between the very best hitter in the game, one of the best in history, and a mediocre shortstop. Even that may be generous, as it doesn't consider that Howard's line against lefties included a lot of ABs against guys like Tom Glavine and Johan Santana, fastball/changeup pitchers who come over the top and don't specialize in getting lefties out. Beimel is a different animal, as his stats show.

But factor into this, too, the fact that Street wasn't terribly sharp that night, had just walked Chase Utley, and had lost a game the previous night. The decision to leave Beimel in the bullpen was simply indefensible.

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I was prepared to defend Tracy based on your post - I think you leave your best pitcher in the game, in general. Beimel is not their best pitcher.

But Joe Sheehan makes a much better argument in the post than what you've clipped here: Ryan Howard is abysmal against LHP, nearly Albert Pujols against RHP.

So in this case, yea, you've got to consider The Barhopper.
Except that Sheehan fails to make a positive case for Beimel at any point, analyzing Street critically on basis of BABIP, while analyzing Beimel based on...wait for it...OBP? If there weren't so many apples and oranges flying around, we'd miss that the cherrypicking is almost criminal.

If you're going to call fluke, then the three-year splits better support that as well:

(2006-2008 vs LHH)
Street: .195 avg .278 obp .353 slg .631 ops
Beimel: .232 avg .274 obp .304 slg .578 ops

The power difference is marginal, but one thing is clear. BABIP or no, for FOUR YEARS, Street has given up fewer hits to lefties than Beimel. And the diff only grew in 2009.

I find the decision to leave Street in highly defensible...because NOBODY yet has made a positive case for Beimel on his own merits. When it takes a retrosheet deep-dive and some spreadsheet magic to prove that the massive discrepancy between Beimel's and Sheet's results against LHHs is "fluky", even though the actual results say otherwise for four years running, someone's making the case they want to make, not the case that is.
The above post is very well-thought-out. But I also would like to point out that Howard, before last night's game, was 3-for-10 lifetime vs. Beimel -- a double, a triple and a home run. So it wasn't at all as obvious that Beimel was a better choice than Street, based on that pitcher-batter matchup.
If I was playing Strat-O-Matic with the 2009 cards I would have Huston Street pitching to Ryan Howard. No way would I switch to Bloody Beimel! Worried about what happened in the previous game? Roll a different set of dice!

From 1989 to 1991 I played a complete 162 game Strat-O-Matic season for all of the teams in the A.L. and N.L. Each team had an All-Star roster of players from the 1962 to 1988 seasons. The two teams that faced off in the World Series were the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. The Bosox won the first three games to take a 3-0 series lead. The Astros stormed back to win the next four games to win the series 4 games to 3. Joe Sambito had a win and two saves.

In real life in the 1980 NLCS Game 5 Joe Sambito stayed in the bullpen when Nolan Ryan faced Pete Rose with the bases loaded and nobody out with a 5-2 Astros lead in the top of the 8th inning. Houston manager Bill Virdon should have brought Sambito in one batter earlier to turn Rose around and make him bat righthanded. In Virdon's defense, the Phillies had loaded the bases in the 8th inning on only four pitches. Rose Would walk and the Phils were on their way to a 5-run inning and an eventual 8-7 win that propelled them to the World Series.

I played plenty of S-O-M games with Joe Sambito in the Astros bullpen. I haven't played any S-O-M games using Joe Beimel. To be fair I have not played a S-O-M game since July 2008 in Kapaa, Kauai. You get me more than a hundred miles from the nearest MLB park and I will roll the S-O-M dice again!

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