Inspiration strikes us all in weird ways on occasion.
For some, it comes from a particular person of repute or venerability. Perhaps a scene or experience from nature can strike a chord and propel a person to artistic brilliance or encourage a more virtuous route in life to be taken.
How about Facebook?
Yes, Facebook. For me, a long sabbatical from my usual HDIB? posting routine was interrupted by a comment on the Book of Faces. The setting? A simple question: Should the Washington Nationals pursue free agent King of Aggro and occasional closer Grant Balfour and sign him to a deal. It’s an interesting premise and one that would have the Nats with little room left at the inn, so to speak, with the inn being the bullpen. With that in mind, it was also posited that a Balfour deal would be predicated upon a trade of fan favourite, Drew Storen.
As you can imagine, it was a question that inspired people to give their thoughts on the matter. Some thoughts were well formed, albeit emotional, others were poorly phrased, or just mean. Then there’s this one:
Yes, get him back here! Back here to close!
WHO THE FUCK IS MANNY?
Manny…Ramirez? Not a pitcher.
Manny…Acta? Had one inning as a pitcher in A ball, never a big leaguer, but was a former manager of the Nats. Getting warmer.
Manny…Machado? Not a pitcher, Nat, or currently retired.
Manny McMannyerson? Made that one up, so no, not him, either.
Oh! All time great and sure bet Hall of Famer Mannyano Rivera!
Nope, not Mariano Rivera, either. At least, I don’t think.
While the mind boggles as to which Manny should be brought back to man the helm of the Nats bullpen, it did give the ol’ grey matter a jump start. Who are the Mannyest of them all in MLB lore? Could we field a team of nothing but Mannys?
Off to FanGraphs I went — and wouldn’t you know it, there were a handful of Mannys who made it to the bigs. 21 to be exact — if that’s handful to you, you have enormous hands, that I oddly want to shake.
Yes! A team full of Mannys! How would that look? It would look a little something like so:
…and the PITCHERS:
The tables — with cutoffs at 50 IP for pitchers and 500 PA for hitters, sorted by career FanGraphs WAR — show us what Team Manny would shake down. Overall, the Manuels would have no issues putting bat to ball, but might be a little thin on pitching. Some superb players past and present clog the proverbial bases in the form of Mannys Sanguillen as well as the aforementioned Ramirez and Machado, with some leather wizardry being handled by Mannys Trillo and Alexander along with young phenom Machado.
Overall, not a bad showing by Team Manny — their average batting WAR of 13.6 would slot between the New York Yankees and Colorado Rockies in 2013 (good for 24th in MLB), while their average pitching WAR of 2.1 would best only the Houston Astros (1.6) in 2013.
Maybe they should sign Balfour to shore up their pitching.
It’s been awhile since I’ve last posted here and while I would love to tell you I have spent the time away from HDIB? analyzing the L.O.M.B.O. data and results in preparation for a manuscript that will be submitted to the International Journal of Sport Grit and Want and Desire and Other Things No One Can Truly Measure But Dammit We Try — the IJSGWDOTNOCTMBDWT for short — alas, I have not.
I have however, been busy writing about the Shutdown. Put away the pitchforks and take a look at what Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann have done before and after Tommy John surgery and having their innings limited post operatively across a number of stats and categories:
For the Orioles fan in your life, I have lots of prose dedicated to Manny Machado and his MPFL injury and his prospects for a healthy return and what that means for the Orioles in 2014:
Looking to 2014, part of a series over at Camden Depot breaking down 2013 and 2014 by position.
I will be helping out Camden Depot with a couple more of these year in review write ups, focusing more on the O’s bullpen; you can also find more of my nerd math writings over at Beyond the Box Score, if you enjoyed the Strasburg/Zimmermann/TJ bits discussed.
Anyone know what IJSGWDOTNOCTMBDWT’s impact factor is? Might have to shop L.O.M.B.O. around…
A 2-7 record in the games those errors occurred.
11 runs scored as a result of said errors.
No matter how hard you try to paint a rosy picture, full of hope and with an angle that speaks to an analytic stone yet to be unturned that provides an explanation for such a rough showing, sometimes the bare-faced truth is all you can, and should, provide.
Ryan Zimmerman has had better days defensively, manning third base. As the owner of the aforementioned numbers as well as a Gold Glove, much ado has been made of his miscues this season – all but one of them being of the throwing kind – and his seemingly sudden inability to make routine plays in a routine manner. While the fact that he was hobbled last year and earlier this season by throwing shoulder injuries that prompted surgery and some rehab time bought Zimmerman some sympathy votes as to the reason for his defensive follies, he finds himself still looking for the answer and arm slot that will cure his throwing ills.
While I will leave the more intangible and subjective aspects of what is ailing Zimmerman and his typically steady defense, whether they be injurious or mental in nature, for another discussion for another day, I do think that what we see on the surface may not tell the full story of Zimmerman and his defensive hiccups.
Let’s look at 2013 numbers again, this time adding another third baseman to the mix – Pittsburgh Pirate Pedro Alvarez. I mention Alvarez because he currently shares second place in errors committed in the MLB with San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro, both with nine as of June 3rd. Let’s break down Alvarez’ errors just like we did for Zim:
|L||2||2||throw, force out attempt|
|2 – 7||11||10||*All runs on throwing errors|
|5 – 4||2||9|
Two things jump out at you when you digest this table – Zimmerman’s throwing woes are both pretty egregious and very costly. Even with the same amount of errors committed, it appears Alvarez’ miscues aren’t as costly as Zimmerman’s. Add in to this mix the number of runs the Nats and Pirates have allowed this season – 223 and 199, respectively, and the issues Zimmerman is having with his throws becomes even more magnified. The 11 runs Zim has given up due to his errors account for 5 percent of the runs given up by the Nats so far in 2013; Alvarez’ mistakes account for one percent of the 199 runs the Buccos have allowed. Quite a dramatic difference, in spite of the absolute number of errors not differing by much. While game situations dictate a large part of how costly an error can be – are there runners on base, how many out outs are there when the error is committed, for example – the reality that Zimmerman’s errors are so costly for a team that ranks 27th in the MLB in runs scored compounds the issues at hand.
Let’s move on and have a broader look at Zimmerman’s defense in comparison to some of his 2013 contemporaries, because, let’s face it, errors describe only a small fraction of a player’s overall fielding prowess. For this, I am going to use two defensive metrics that have fallen out of favour for the more robust and descriptive Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), but are still useful tools in describing a player’s defensive abilities – Revised Zone Rating (RZR) and Out of Zone Plays Made (OOZ). I use them here because they still paint an accurate picture of defensive ability and aren’t as sensitive to small sample sizes like UZR tends to be, all while being a little more palatable to the less sabermetrically inclined. For those link clicking averse, briefly, RZR is a way to measure a player’s range and his ability to make the routine plays expected from the position, while OOZ tallies the number of plays that were made and converted into outs on balls outside of the player’s expected zone. When you look at the two in unison, you can get a decent idea of how well a player fields his position as well as his range and his ability to make exceptional plays.
Good with that explanation? OK, now some numbers, courtesy of Fangraphs, looking at what 2013 has brought Zimmerman, Alvarez, as well as the American and National League leaders as far as RZR:
|Name||Team||MLB Rank, RZR||Inn||Balls in Zone||Plays||RZR||OOZ|
Out of 23 qualified third basemen, Ryan Zimmerman ranks 20th in the MLB in RZR, with only Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants ranking worse in the NL. Per Fangraphs, a rough estimate has Zimmerman’s RZR in the ‘awful’ category, which is anything under .700. That being said, no third baseman is considered ‘average’, with no one with a RZR at or better than .835, so as with many other statistical categorizations, caveat emptor. On a more positive (?) note, Zim is tied for 11th place with Evan Longoria, with 12 OOZ plays; Matt Dominguez of the Houston Astros leads all MLB third basemen with 25 OOZ plays, followed closely by Pedro Alvarez, with 22.
So what does this tell us?
So far in 2013, Zimmerman’s throwing problems have overshadowed an even larger issue – his apparent decline in defensive prowess. As judged by RZR and OOZ, Zim doesn’t seem to be making the plays that upper echelon defensive third basemen make or the routine ones that all third basemen are expected to make. If we go by just the table above, it appears that Zimmerman may have lost a step, which is hindering his typically elite defensive range.
Let’s not just go by this table – let’s grab some career stats for Zimmerman, and see if this apparent defensive decline is real or just a product of a poor signal to noise ratio. Again, we’ll look at RZR and OOZ, but this time, let’s take a peek at his UZR, now that we have enough of a sample size to look at those values appreciably and confidently. I have included my own innings per error calculation, labeled INN/E; I am also taking the liberty of throwing out his 2005 numbers to keep the data and results as clean as possible, as he only played 15 games that season, one of which was at shortstop.
|Season||Inn||Balls in Zone||Plays||RZR||OOZ||UZR||INN/E|
*italics denote Gold Glove Award winning season
Here, we have a better gauge of how special Zimmerman has been defensively over the years, in particular his 2009 season, where he accrued 102 OOZ plays, which ranks as 1st all-time for third basemen, as well as his 2010 campaign. However, we also see a slow decline in defensive prowess, starting in 2011. Not only do we see a precipitous drop in UZR, going into negative territory, we also see his RZR and OOZ values steadily dropping as well, culminating in the clunker of a season we see him having in 2013. Another red flag we see in 2013 is the enormous jump in error frequency – currently making one every 41 innings played, about a 30 inning shift for the worse as compared to his career average.
No matter how you look at the numbers, the verdict is the same – Ryan Zimmerman’s once superb defensive prowess appears to be failing him. Whether it’s injuries, age, or some other cause, the last three years have shown a gradual progression towards mediocrity and worse at the hot corner defensively for Zim. With the Nationals currently auditioning prospect and career third baseman Anthony Rendon at second base at Class AAA Syracuse in an effort to shore up poor play from Danny Espinosa, it appears that Zimmerman is here to stay, warts and all. While Espinosa’s offense has been atrocious in 2013, he remains an elite defensive second baseman, ranking second in the MLB with a .888 RZR, making the shift of Rendon, a career third baseman, a tenuous one, and one that smacks of desperation from the Nats.
Another stone unturned, another reality better left unspoken.