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Thread: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

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    The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Consider this thread to be an attempt at injecting some critical thinking into the forum before the grand merger and before Spring Training begins.

    After reading some of the threads on the Minor League Forum, many of which discuss Billy Hamilton and how he may affect the future of sabremetrics. One of the first posts that got me thinking was a post by Atomic Dumpling that provided a primer that explained the differences between different WAR calculations. A second was a series of posts discussing John Sickels' prospect rankings, which culminated in this quote by Scrap Irony:

    Quote Originally Posted by Scrap Irony

    [...]

    Hamilton's speed-adjusted WAR could very well double the next highest person on the list. He could be the Babe Ruth of the WAR speed set. And that makes me giddy.

    Imagine a line of .225/ .320/ .380 with a WAR in the top ten of the game.

    Could happen.

    Could very well happen.
    This immediately reminded me of THIS article, which brought up the following points: [WARNING: Boring math nerd stuff ahead. If you don't like boring math nerd stuff, skip these quotes]

    In 2000, during the apex of the stolen base depression, teams needed to maintain a 69.7% success rate on the base paths just to simply break even on the run value game (granted: game context such as the pitchers, stadium, weather, and score allows for varying levels of acceptable SB-rates). But by 2012, the break even point dipped to 66.6%.
    Before we expand that concept, we must understand why the run values for CS and SB have changed. In the height of the Steroid Era, home runs came in discount baskets. In the aforementioned 2000 seasons, the HR/PA rate nearly hit 3%. Compared to the 2.68% of 2012. That comes to a difference of almost a whole home run per five or six games.
    A simple equation of:

    Break Even Rate = 0.590 + 3.33 x (HR/PA)

    This phat function allows us to predict the optimal break even point not just for a league, not just for a team, but for a lineup.
    Obviously, this analysis of the running game is crude. But the ideas welling underneath it point to a concentric theme: Managers need to buckle their courage pants and start beaming the green light again. Home runs may never come back in quite the same fashion, so stealing deserves its renascence.
    [end boring math nerd stuff]

    So, it seems that the league may be trending to a spot where speed is becoming more and more valuable. The effects of speed for a batter are relatively varied: outs can become hits or errors, singles can become doubles, stolen bases become a more common practice, and so on. A parallel can be seen in other sports leagues such as the NFL where speed-oriented players are gaining ground.

    Furthermore, because of the change in landscape across MLB since the end of the PED era, a change in the calculus could lead to the speedy player being a more common contributer to a team than the slugger. Because there have been fewer and fewer true sluggers, maybe the wheel turns and the Ryan Ludwicks, Raul Ibanezes or Michael Cuddyers get phased out while the Michael Brantleys, BJ Uptons, or Ben Reveres become the players in vogue. As the landscape becomes more varied, players with unique skillsets (such as Our very own Brandon Phillips might become more prevalent than the replaceable parts that have been around MLB for years.

    One of the really interesting things about WAR is that it got fans to think about players in a different way. Players like Adam Dunn who were ridiculed because of high strikeouts, poor defense, and low batting average were seen to have much higher value than some had thought. Now, players with elite speed might be viewed in the same way as Dunn was after the modernization of stats.

    So, Reds fans! If this trend continues... how do you think this will influence the landscape of the game, and how would you use this information going forward to better the team?
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    Thus his team was punished

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  2. #2
    Member Superdude's Avatar
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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    I'm sure not just the lineup as a whole, but each game situation has a different "breakeven rate". Given that this whole topic basically stems from us having the poster boy for this style of baseball waiting in the wings in AAA, the obvious question is how to get the most value out of a player that will probably bring very few of the sabermetric skills we all drooled over in 2005.

    Should he be batting leadoff is one question I'd have. Seems to me the breakeven rate would be drastically lower if Hamilton is trying to swipe bags in front of Cozart and Hanigan on deck as opposed to Phillips, Bruce, Votto, etc.

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    KungFu Fighter AtomicDumpling's Avatar
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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Superdude View Post
    I'm sure not just the lineup as a whole, but each game situation has a different "breakeven rate". Given that this whole topic basically stems from us having the poster boy for this style of baseball waiting in the wings in AAA, the obvious question is how to get the most value out of a player that will probably bring very few of the sabermetric skills we all drooled over in 2005.

    Should he be batting leadoff is one question I'd have. Seems to me the breakeven rate would be drastically lower if Hamilton is trying to swipe bags in front of Cozart and Hanigan on deck as opposed to Phillips, Bruce, Votto, etc.
    Agreed. A player should not be placed at leadoff merely because he can steal bases. The leadoff hitter must have a high OBP. Speed pales in comparison to OBP in terms of importance.

    I also agree that stolen bases have added value when they are stolen with a singles hitter at the plate. You don't need to steal second to be driven in by Joey Votto or Jay Bruce and you sure as heck don't want to get thrown out on the bases with your best hitters at the plate. But guys like Ryan Hanigan and Zack Cozart are unlikely to drive you home unless you are already in scoring position. Put the basestealer in front of the singles hitters, not in front of the power hitters.

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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    Agreed. A player should not be placed at leadoff merely because he can steal bases. The leadoff hitter must have a high OBP. Speed pales in comparison to OBP in terms of importance.
    I think we can all agree on that. My point is that if Hamilton develops as we hope, he's filling two roles offensively: getting on base at a solid clip and subsequently stealing an impossibly high number of the bases in front of him. He profiles perfectly as a leadoff hitter, but it's also presumably somewhat limiting to the value he can provide on the bases by running in front of a potent middle of the order. Would it be worth using a slightly less ideal leadoff hitter like Phillips and letting Hamilton have the constant green light in the 7th spot to set up easy RBI opportunities for guys like Cozart?

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    KungFu Fighter AtomicDumpling's Avatar
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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Superdude View Post
    I think we can all agree on that. My point is that if Hamilton develops as we hope, he's filling two roles offensively: getting on base at a solid clip and subsequently stealing an impossibly high number of the bases in front of him. He profiles perfectly as a leadoff hitter, but it's also presumably somewhat limiting to the value he can provide on the bases by running in front of a potent middle of the order. Would it be worth using a slightly less ideal leadoff hitter like Phillips and letting Hamilton have the constant green light in the 7th spot to set up easy RBI opportunities for guys like Cozart?
    Yes, when Billy Hamilton reaches the big leagues it would make sense to start him out in the 6th or 7th spot in the lineup. If he proves he can get on base at a .350+ rate in the major leagues, then and only then should he be put in the leadoff spot. It is the OBP that determines whether a player is qualified to bat leadoff -- not his speed.

    But since Hamilton plays centerfield and is fast I am sure Dusty Baker will have him bat leadoff no matter what his OBP is.

    And I agree with you that a stolen base is more valuable in front of Hanigan or Cozart than it is in front of Votto or Bruce.
    Last edited by AtomicDumpling; 01-28-2013 at 04:35 PM.

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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    Yes, when Billy Hamilton reaches the big leagues it would make sense to start him out in the 6th or 7th spot in the lineup. If he proves he can get on base at a .350+ rate in the major leagues, then and only then should he be put in the leadoff spot. It is the OBP that determines whether a player is qualified to bat leadoff -- not his speed.

    But since Hamilton plays centerfield and is fast I am sure Dusty Baker will have him bat leadoff no matter what his OBP is.

    And I agree with you that a stolen base is more valuable in front of Hanigan or Cozart than it is in front of Votto or Bruce.
    You've really got stop building OBP opponents like it's 2003. I was saying, assuming Hamilon becomes a .350+ OBP hitter and stolen bases are substantially more valuable in front of Cozart, might it be worth giving up the ideal leadoff hitter in order to take full advantage of his base stealing by batting him 7? I'd lean towards no in our case, but mainly because I don't see anyone else that fits anywhere close to that well into the leadoff spot.

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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Superdude View Post
    I think we can all agree on that. My point is that if Hamilton develops as we hope, he's filling two roles offensively: getting on base at a solid clip and subsequently stealing an impossibly high number of the bases in front of him. He profiles perfectly as a leadoff hitter, but it's also presumably somewhat limiting to the value he can provide on the bases by running in front of a potent middle of the order. Would it be worth using a slightly less ideal leadoff hitter like Phillips and letting Hamilton have the constant green light in the 7th spot to set up easy RBI opportunities for guys like Cozart?
    To me, no. If the argument for having OBP at the top of the order is to maximize RBI opportunities for the middle of the order, it seems counter-productive to take the guy who's going to set up the most easy RBI opportunities and put him behind the RBI guys.

    I will agree that Cozart will see more relative good from a stolen-base king hitting in front of him than Votto would, but I'm not convinced that in absolute terms it translates to more runs for the Reds. Remember that even for a terrific hitter like Votto, nearly 90% of his plate appearances don't end in extra-base hits. It would be nice to see somebody crossing the plate on his two-out professional-hitter-at-work liners to left, too, not just on the rockets flying over the fence.

    I also agree that Hamilton needs to have a leadoff-worthy OBP, not just the speed. That's why I'm okay with the Reds taking their time here. He's not a finished product yet and I'd like him to keep building on his success and come to the majors when he's good and ready.
    Not all who wander are lost

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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    Agreed. A player should not be placed at leadoff merely because he can steal bases. The leadoff hitter must have a high OBP. Speed pales in comparison to OBP in terms of importance.

    I also agree that stolen bases have added value when they are stolen with a singles hitter at the plate. You don't need to steal second to be driven in by Joey Votto or Jay Bruce and you sure as heck don't want to get thrown out on the bases with your best hitters at the plate. But guys like Ryan Hanigan and Zack Cozart are unlikely to drive you home unless you are already in scoring position. Put the basestealer in front of the singles hitters, not in front of the power hitters.
    So the ideal lineup with BH playing would be:

    LF Choo
    2b Phillips
    1b Votto
    RF Bruce
    3b Frazier
    CF Hamilton
    SS Cozart
    C Hanigan

    How does that grab you?
    Sabermetrics is this: A batter's goal is to extend the inning. Extend enough innings and you're going to score runs. Extend more innings than your opponent and you're going to score more runs than him.

    Forget the rain. It's never an official game until the Reds piss away a run between third base and home plate. - Bluegrass Redleg

  9. #9
    Flash the leather! _Sir_Charles_'s Avatar
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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    So the ideal lineup with BH playing would be:

    LF Choo
    2b Phillips
    1b Votto
    RF Bruce
    3b Frazier
    CF Hamilton
    SS Cozart
    C Hanigan

    How does that grab you?
    That looks great, but I think it's either Choo OR Hamitlon, not both. I don't think we'll see both of them with the Reds outside of this september.
    2014 predictions:
    99-63 WS champs (Cards take 2nd WC, Mil 3rd, Pit 4th, Chi 5th)
    Bruce/Votto neck and neck MVP race (neither takes it)
    Bailey CYA winner
    Hamilton ROY & GG

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    Flash the leather! _Sir_Charles_'s Avatar
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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    Agreed. A player should not be placed at leadoff merely because he can steal bases. The leadoff hitter must have a high OBP. Speed pales in comparison to OBP in terms of importance.

    I also agree that stolen bases have added value when they are stolen with a singles hitter at the plate. You don't need to steal second to be driven in by Joey Votto or Jay Bruce and you sure as heck don't want to get thrown out on the bases with your best hitters at the plate. But guys like Ryan Hanigan and Zack Cozart are unlikely to drive you home unless you are already in scoring position. Put the basestealer in front of the singles hitters, not in front of the power hitters.
    I don't think anybody would disagree with the OBP over speed argument. But one thing I think gets overlooked in regards to having a guy like Hamilton in front of the middle of the lineup is the distraction effect he'll have on the pitcher. And thus the more likely it'll be that the pitcher makes a mistake pitch. Give an advantage like that to our better hitters and they'll take advantage of mistakes at a higher rate than our lesser hitters (Cozy & Hanny). I get the argument you're making and it's certainly valid, but there are other factors that make it work in favor of him being in front of the sluggers too.

    And by the way, great idea for a thread Plus Plus.
    Last edited by _Sir_Charles_; 01-28-2013 at 06:07 PM.
    2014 predictions:
    99-63 WS champs (Cards take 2nd WC, Mil 3rd, Pit 4th, Chi 5th)
    Bruce/Votto neck and neck MVP race (neither takes it)
    Bailey CYA winner
    Hamilton ROY & GG

  11. #11
    KungFu Fighter AtomicDumpling's Avatar
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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    It is an interesting concept. I agree that Stolen Bases are more valuable now than when scoring was elevated 10-15 years ago. Whether the break even rate for stealing bases should be directly tied to the home run rate seems questionable to me. It might make more sense to base it on Runs per game rather than home runs per plate appearance. I could be wrong, but that is my gut feeling.

    I would also challenge the notion that Steroids or PEDs were responsible for the elevated scoring years. Contrary to popular belief, the rates of PED usage and scoring do not correlate very well. Scoring began to drop off while PED usage was still on the upswing. By the time the peak of the Steroid Era came around scoring had already been declining for years.

    As I have detailed more thoroughly in other threads and as Baseball Prospectus has extensively shown, there are much better reasons than PEDs for the increased scoring during those years. PEDs simply don't have nearly as much effect on the game of baseball as most people have been led to believe. The biggest reasons for the increased scoring during that time were smaller ballparks, denser bats, bouncier balls, team expansion, improved surgical techniques, less emphasis on defensive skill, improved recognition that OBP and SLG were better indicators of hitting skill than AVG, an influx of talent from outside the USA and bigger players. The players are bigger, taller, stronger and more athletic due to improved diet and weight training, and they are more physically fit and flexible due to professional training regimens.

    Players today lead far different lifestyles in terms of athletic training and physical fitness than they did 25 years ago. Steroids used to be a quick, easy and risky shortcut to physical strength. But for the last 15 years or so players have taken the long road to strength and fitness by devoting themselves year-round to intense regimens of training guided by professional athletic trainers and strength coaches -- folks who didn't exist back in the pre-steroids era. The average player right now is bigger and stronger than the average player at the height of the steroid era yet scoring is down significantly. Scoring is down due to increased emphasis on defensive skill, defensive shifting, increased video scouting that exposes hitters' weaknesses, higher average pitch velocity, increased usage of relief specialists and increasing usage of effective pitches like the cut fastball. Many of the newer stadiums are also pitchers' parks compared to the ones they replaced and they use a humidor in Denver now.

    Getting back to the issue of stolen base break-even rates, I can see why the rate is dropping down into the 66% range. It is getting tougher to score each year. So if you can scratch out an extra runner into scoring position you should do it. When calculating the break even rate why don't they factor in pickoffs? Most pickoffs occur when the runner is intending to steal but dives back into first base and gets tagged out. Since he did not run to second base he is not charged with a Caught Stealing. I think the pickoffs should be factored into the stolen base break-even rate.

    Billy Hamilton's stolen bases are impressive, but his speed may have even more affect on run scoring due to taking extra bases on batted balls (his and others), scoring on balls normal humans can't score on, forcing errors by defenders and by beating out enough infield hits to keep his OBP high. It will definitely be interesting to see for ourselves just how much his world-class speed affects the game. Can't wait!

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    Viva la Rolen kaldaniels's Avatar
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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    PEDs simply don't have nearly as much effect on the game of baseball as most people have been led to believe. The biggest reasons for the increased scoring during that time were smaller ballparks, denser bats, bouncier balls, team expansion, improved surgical techniques, less emphasis on defensive skill, improved recognition that OBP and SLG were better indicators of hitting skill than AVG, an influx of talent from outside the USA and bigger players. The players are bigger, taller, stronger and more athletic due to improved diet and weight training, and they are more physically fit and flexible due to professional training regimens.
    Many of the things you mentioned are still in effect today. What in your opinion, led to the barrage of HR's (the 60+ seasons to be specific) and then the decline of said huge seasons. Did the pitching just catch up to the hitters? PEDs? Other?

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    KungFu Fighter AtomicDumpling's Avatar
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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by kaldaniels View Post
    Many of the things you mentioned are still in effect today. What in your opinion, led to the barrage of HR's (the 60+ seasons to be specific) and then the decline of said huge seasons. Did the pitching just catch up to the hitters? PEDs? Other?
    Incidentally the biggest steroid abuser of the era, Barry Bonds, only hit 50+ home runs in a season once in his career.

    The reason the 60+ HR seasons declined is because opposing teams basically quit pitching to Bonds and McGwire and Sosa. Once pitchers started intentionally walking Bonds at a record pace and pitching around him almost every at-bat it made it very hard for him to hit home runs. He had a .609 OBP with 232 Walks in 2004!

    Teams today rarely give a superstar a pitch to drive.

    The average player today is bigger than the average player back at the height of the home run bashing steroids era.

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    Box of Frogs edabbs44's Avatar
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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    Incidentally the biggest steroid abuser of the era, Barry Bonds, only hit 50+ home runs in a season once in his career.

    The reason the 60+ HR seasons declined is because opposing teams basically quit pitching to Bonds and McGwire and Sosa. Once pitchers started intentionally walking Bonds at a record pace and pitching around him almost every at-bat it made it very hard for him to hit home runs. He had a .609 OBP with 232 Walks in 2004!

    Teams today rarely give a superstar a pitch to drive.

    The average player today is bigger than the average player back at the height of the home run bashing steroids era.
    So you are of the belief that, ironically, the biggest power hitters of the era just happened to use steroids?

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    Re: The Changing Landscape of Baseball and (maybe) a new Roster Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by edabbs44 View Post
    So you are of the belief that, ironically, the biggest power hitters of the era just happened to use steroids?

    I'm of the belief that most players were using steroids of one form or another.


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