Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hot Stove Tid Bits



We will get back to our review of the roster shortly, but I had a couple odds and ends to throw out now that the offseason is officially under way:

Switch Hitting… Or Not

Everyone agrees the biggest hole the Nationals are looking to fill this winter is at second base. Danny Espinosa has had multiple opportunities to seize the position for his own, but his hitting from the left side of the plate was so bad that it eliminated his value as a right handed hitter. So what if he only hit right handed? It’s not a new idea, FP Santangelo discussed it a lot on the Nationals broadcasts for one. Switch hitting data isn’t the easiest to come by, so consider this my totally unscientific look at players who have abandoned switch hitting due to a drop off in results at one side of the plate. I found the following players who were switch hitters in the 1990s or later (my arbitrary cut off point. Like I said, unscientific) who gave up switch hitting at the end of their career and their batting stats from their weaker side prior to that switch:


As Switch Hitter from the weakside

PA
Avg.
OBP
ISO
Shane Victorino
229
0.274
0.317
0.115
Nook Logan
482
0.244
0.299
0.056
JT Snow
82
0.157
0.256
0.072
Orlando Merced
170
0.193
0.284
0.060
Rich Becker
221
0.179
0.253
0.040
Reggie Jefferson
227
0.222
0.291
0.097
Luis Terrero
191
0.240
0.304
0.086
Juan Bell
339
0.199
0.251
0.104
Chuck Carr
320
0.279
0.323
0.054







A couple of notes on these stats: for those guys who had multiple season of switch hitting (Shane Victornio, JT Snow, and Chuck Carr) I pulled only their last season of stats as a switch hitter as I really wanted to focus on how poorly they were hitting that they considered it necessary to make such a drastic change. Secondly, I didn’t look into each playe’rs reason for abandoning switch hitting. For the most, it’s easy to see that their performance just wasn’t cutting it, although Shane Victorino made the switch due to injuries that limited his ability to hit left handed. Finally, Nook Logan

Next up, is the same list of players with their stats after abandoning switch hitting against same sided pitchers (i.e. they gave up their platoon advantage):



As non-switch hitter

Pitcher Matchup
PA
Avg.
OBP
ISO
Shane Victorino
R vs. R
232
0.268
0.333
0.177
Nook Logan
R vs. R
166
0.248
0.280
0.045
JT Snow
L vs. L
659
0.246
0.351
0.112
Orlando Merced
L vs. L
748
0.257
0.333
0.152
Rich Becker
L vs. L
192
0.143
0.266
0.043
Reggie Jefferson
L vs. L
164
0.214
0.294
0.055
Luis Terrero
R vs. R
171
0.235
0.325
0.148
Juan Bell
R vs. R
292
0.217
0.321
0.084
Chuck Carr
R vs. R
231
0.177
0.286
0.042

As you can see, this switch extended careers for a few players, who ended up with over 250 more plate appearances after making the switch. Finally, here is the change in performance for this group:



Change in Performance

Pitcher Matchup
Avg.
OBP
ISO
Shane Victorino
R vs. R
-0.006
0.016
0.062
Nook Logan
R vs. R
0.004
-0.019
-0.011
JT Snow
L vs. L
0.089
0.095
0.04
Orlando Merced
L vs. L
0.064
0.049
0.092
Rich Becker
L vs. L
-0.036
0.013
0.003
Reggie Jefferson
L vs. L
-0.008
0.003
-0.042
Luis Terrero
R vs. R
-0.005
0.021
0.062
Juan Bell
R vs. R
0.018
0.070
-0.02
Chuck Carr
R vs. R
-0.102
-0.037
-0.012

Out of this list of 9 players, four showed improvement to varying degrees: Shane Victorino, JT Snow, Juan Bell, and Orlando Merced, while the rest actually performed worse or just maintained their previously poor performance. So while it’s clearly not out of the realm of possibility for Espinosa to give up his switch hitting and improve as a player, this sample just isn’t big enough to really say much else.

Free Agent Performance

Something to keep in mind during hot stove season is that free agents are usually free agents for a reason. Studies have shown that players who sign as free agents tend to spend more time on the DL and underperform non-free agent players. There are a lot of reasons for this. Some of it is the aging curve where free agents are by definition older players and more likely to be past their prime. Some of it is selection bias as the best players (i.e. Mike Trout, Evan Longoria) tend to sign extensions with their current teams and never hit free agency. Finally, some of it can be attributed to information asymmetry as the team’s former employer has more information on the player than is available in the marketplace and is better able to decide to allow the player to become a free agent in the first place.

Roster Construction

After plucking away Andrew Friedman from the Tampa Bay Rays to be their new president of baseball operations, the Dodgers continued to build their all-star sabermetric front office by grabbing the A’s Farhan Zaidi, who is very popular in the analytics world. Given their success at the Rays and A’s respectively, a lot of speculation has gone into just how these two will dictate the Dodgers’ moves this offseason. Something that the A’s and Rays used to build their teams was the idea of building a roster from the bottom up. Taking a typical roster, standard analysis tends to look at the top half of the talent and figure out ways to add more upper echelon talent. This approach is expensive and difficult as every team theoretically wants to add the best available talent. The thing is, adding more top tier talent might not actually add that much value. Taking a 3 win player (by WAR) and replacing him with a 3.5 win player doesn’t tip the scales much. However, if you can replace your back up catcher who had a -2 WAR even in only limited playing time with even a replacement level player, you have added two wins and likely done so on the cheap. This is an approach the Nationals can and should take, as their starting position players and pitching rotation is mostly set. That doesn’t mean it’s time to take it easy, but time to focus on those bench players who could end up playing pivotal roles, whether that be in pitch hitting opportunities or substituting for injured players.

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