Fun Stats Concerning Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon

The Braves (1-1) won their second game today in extra innings behind a great start from Bartolo. Here are some fun facts:

– At the height of his velocity in the year 2000 pitching for the Indians, Colon had 10.6 Ks per 9 innings, and 4.7 BBs per 9 innings. Two years ago, as he focused more on control, his numbers were 6.3 Ks per 9 innings, and 1.1 BBs per 9 innings. He has lead the National League the last two seasons in lowest walks per 9 innings.
– He has been in the top 10 in WAR for pitchers in his league 7 times, and has the 7th highest active career WAR (49.5).
– Colon was an all-star in 1998, and he was an all-star for the fourth time 18 years later in 2016.
– Only CC Sabathia has more active career strikeouts than Bartolo.
– Colon has given up 379 home runs in his career, most among active players and 19th all time.
– Bartolo was the 9th oldest player, four years ago. As of this year, he is the oldest player in the majors.

How Tall is a Baseball Hall of Famer?

We take a quick break from our season preview articles to explore something completely unrelated: the height of the members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and how that height has changed over time.  According to this article in Scientific American, the average human has grown 4 inches taller than they did 150 years ago.  Since 150 years ago is roughly the same time we have information on height in Major League Baseball (though that information is far from complete until well into the 20th century), we can compare the two numbers.

First, just taking the members of the Hall of Fame were inducted as players (excluding those who were inducted as managers, pioneers, umpires, etc. even if they also played), we get the following graph:

HeightAndWeightOfHallofFamersWithOutliers

As you can see, there are relative few outliers in the group.  Of the four labeled outliers, Johnny Evers and Willie Keeler are older players, and Frank Thomas and Randy Johnson are very recent players.  Louis Santop was a turn of the 20th century Negro League catcher who was large before his time.  If you’re wondering, Babe Ruth is in the big blog near the upper right.  Since he was more commonly filmed for popularity and technology issues very late in his career, a common belief was that he was the Pablo Sandoval of his time (Yes, Pablo would be far to the right of this line at 5’11” and 255 lbs.).  However, for most of his career Babe was a muscular and fit right fielder who could run.  You can also see a kind of baseline using the trendline to judge your own height and weight, or a favorite player.  Below and to the right of the line, you or that player could stand to lose a few pounds.  Above and to the left of the line, and you or they could pack on some muscle.

How have the heights changed over time?

HeightofHoFoverTime

As it is labeled, this chart doesn’t measure Hall of Famers by their year of induction, but by the date 20 years after their birth.  As mentioned earlier, the average human is 4 inches taller than 150 years ago.  According to this data, we might expect the average Hall of Famers in 1860 (if a great enough number existed) to have been about 68 inches tall, or 5’8″.  The average current 20 year-old future Hall of Famer now is around 74 inches, or 6’2″.  The Scientific American article lists the most significant cause of this growth to be from increased childhood vitamin consumption.  We might guess that the extra two inches the Baseball Hall of Famer is from not only improved nutrition, but by drawing from a larger international pool than 150 years ago.

With the exception of sports like auto and horse racing, in which size is a disadvantage by making the car or horse/rider combo heavier, all sports see size as a significant advantage.  All sports are getting taller, and the days of exceptional play from people like Jose Altuve (5’6″, 165 lbs.) may become more rare in the future.

Season Preview – Julio Teheran

Julio Teheran seems to be at a crossroads.  Is he going to take his game to the next level as he enters his prime (he turned 25 just a few weeks ago), or is he going to level off as a solid 2nd or 3rd starter for the rest of his career?  Let’s look at some key data from baseball-reference.com and the pitch data from BrooksBaseball.net.  We’ll start with his traditional numbers.

TeheranAnnualPitchingStats

Since be became a starter in 2013, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) rating has been higher than his ERA, but that’s to be expected for a pitcher with a good defense (we miss you Andrelton!).  His WHIP and ERA saw slight upticks, and so it will be interesting to see if he can shrug off the weak start to 2015 we experienced to put together a complete season of excellence.  If that upticks causes concern, let’s dig deeper into the reasons why that ERA went up.

TeheranPerNineStats

As you can see, in 2015 he gave up more home runs per 9 innings, walked significantly more, gave up more hits, and struck out about the same.  7.5 strikeouts per nine innings isn’t going to dominate the league, but giving up nearly 8 hits and 3 walks every 9 innings is not going to get it done.  It will be interesting to see what his walk rates are in spring training, to see if he can get back below the 2.5 BB/9 level that he had in 2014.

Teheran seems to have settles into a career as a fastball/slider/sinker pitcher, without the overpowering fastball velocity he had a few years ago, but with a more effective slider.  Here’s the usage % for each pitch:

TeheranUsageRates

He rarely throws his curve and change anymore, but that’s okay because they’re fairly terrible.  His slider has become his 2nd most used pitch.  How has his velocity changed?

TeheranAnnualVelocity

Everything is down from year to year, with his fastball settling in at a modest 92 mph average.  As you can see, the slider has replaced the changeup as his 10mph slower distraction from the fastball.  Normally a velocity chart like this would be troubling on a 25 year-old until you consider two things.  1) He only started from 2013 on, so the numbers on the left are very limited time as a reliever.  2) Look to the results as we go forward in his career:

TeheranAvaerageAgainst

His change-up and curveball have the highest batting average against, but he doesn’t use them much.  Meanwhile, his fastball has been better every year as a starter, and his slider is just creeping up to meet the fastball at about a .200 batting average.

What can we look for?  I look for a slight bounce-back season for Teheran, with a sub-4 ERA and a better WHIP.  If his BB/9 and H/9 continue to go in the wrong direction, the Braves may regret the contract extension they gave him through his age-29 season, but he should continue to be a serviceable starter in any case.

Does draft pick position really matter in baseball?

Here’s a possibly useful chart that may answer whether it matters in baseball whether a team gets the first pick in the draft, or falls to a later pick.  Our initial thought may be that it matters more in other sports, but it still clearly matters in baseball.  These numbers are muddled a bit by the fact that some teams purposely draft a player with less potential who demands a lower signing bonus early in the draft.  Even with that in mind, it does seem that the first pick is significantly better than later picks.

The blue line is the average career WAR (from baseball-reference.com) of players drafted in that round, going back to 1990.  The red line is the number of players drafted before 2009 (6 years ago) who have a WAR of less than 0.1.  So the red line is the number of players drafted in that round who never contributed significantly at the major league level.

WARofDraftPicks

What we see is that player quality drops off significantly after the first rounds, and your chance of drafting a bust rises dramatically after round 4.  That being said, I think there’s a kind of downward spiral that may happen if a team loses too much.  Chemistry and culture probably make a big difference, and so the Braves may be better off winning as much as they can the last few weeks of the season, grabbing a pick between 2 and 4, and trying to build that culture into something that wins in 2017 when they move into their new stadium.  What do you think?

What did the in-season moves do to the Braves’ pitching staff?

Here’s the list of all of the Braves pitchers who had a positive WAR this season up to now, according to baseball-reference.com:

Shelby Miller (4.1)

Alex Wood* (2.4)

Jim Johnson* (1.5)

Julio Teheran (1.0)

Arodys Vizcaino (0.8)

Jason Grilli* (0.6)

Luis Avilan* (0.6)

Jason Frasor* (0.3)

Michael Kohn* (0.2)

Ryan Weber (0.1)

Peter Moylan (0.1)

You may have guessed where I’m going.  The players with an asterisk are no longer on the major league roster.  Wood, Johnson and Avilan were traded to the Dodgers.  Grilli is out for the year with an injury, Frasor was released, and Kohn was sent back to AAA.  Every other pitcher you may have seen this year for the Braves has a negative WAR.  That means that if you replaced that player with an average major leaguer the results would have been better.  The Braves have continued to pitch players like Mike Foltynewicz and Matt Wisler because they need major league time to be able to grow into quality major leaguers.  The future looks bright!…. okay, the future is at least coming quickly.

 

The Mathematics of Losing Streaks

As of today’s game, the Braves have lost 12 games in a row.  They are now 54-83, for a winning percentage of 39.4%.  The chances of losing 12 games in a row when you have a 39.4% chance of winning (I know, it was higher at the beginning of the streak but bear with me) is 0.606 or 60.6% (their losing chance) to the 12th power.  The result is 0.0025 or 0.25%.  That means if the Braves played 12 consecutive games at this success level, they would only lose 12 in a row once in every 400 attempts at 12 games in a row.  We wouldn’t expect it to happen very often, and it hasn’t.  The last time they lost 12 in a row was 1977, when they went on to lose 17 in a row.  To be included on this list of longest losing streaks in major league history they’ll need to get to 18 games.  At their current win%, the chances of them losing another 6 in a row could be estimated at 5% (0.606 to the 6th power).  Given the way the season is going, I’m not sure I would take a 20-1 bet against the Braves to get to 18.

By the way, the franchise record is 19 games lost in a row set by the 1906 Boston Bean-eaters (as the Braves we known at the time).  Around the turn of the century, all of the best players from their 1890s dynasty team had been raided by the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) of the rival American League which could pay their players more.  The 1907 team took 7 years to win the World Series with the Miracle Braces of 1914, and the 1977 Braves took another 5 years to get to relevance.  Let’s hope this rebuilding project is quicker!

South End Grounds!

The actual South End Grounds (pictured in our logo) was built in 1871 by Ivers Adams, first owner of the franchise that would become the Braves.  They began play in the spring of that year as the Boston Red Stockings, and are now the oldest continuously operating franchise in Major League Baseball.  (The Cincinnati Reds are slightly older, but went out of business and reformed.)  The Boston Braves (as they were eventually known) played in South End Grounds until 1914, when they moved to Fenway Park, which is of course still around as the home of the Boston Red Sox.

This blog is dedicated to that team, and acknowledges all of the various double-meanings in its name.  You will find on this page arguments, evidence (or grounds) for arguments, and discussion of the team that is the unofficial team (with respect to fans of the Florida teams) of the south end of the United States.