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Just The Sports: 2010-08-08

Just The Sports

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Give Francoeur What He Wants

If Jeff Francoeur truly desires a trade, then the New York Mets should oblige him and quickly because Francoeur and his agent are obviously suffering from troubling delusions. Francoeur has never deserved to play every day in his career, and the New York Mets would be foolish to allow him to bully them into committing the folly of caving into his demands.

Going back four years, I have written ten posts detailing the struggles Francoeur has experienced on the major league level. Since the time when I gave up beating the dead horse that is the fact Francoeur barely deserves to still be on any major league roster, nothing has changed. By every possible hitting statistic, Francoeur is a below average hitter when allowed to play every day.

In his 3,328 plate appearances, Francoeur has only hit .267/.309/.426. The league average during that time has been .267/.338/.427. While Francoeur is right on average in terms of batting average and slugging percentage, he fails to measure up when it comes to on-base percentage, which is the most important of those three hitting statistics.

Moreover, Francoeur's career wOBA of .314 is lower than the league average wOBA, which is around .335. A team simply is not going to be able to maximize their potential with Francoeur playing right field every day, no matter the above average defense he plays. If every player on a roster hit like Franceour, any team he played for would have a .454 winning percentage.

If Francoeur truly wanted to stick around in the majors, there is only one way in which he can do that; he will need to accept a role as a platoon partner. For his career, Francoeur has only done one thing right and that is to hit left handed pitching well. Under those conditions, Francoeur has hit .300/.343/.484 with a .347 wOBA, reasonably above average. Any other utilization of Francoeur is an unforgivable error since there is so much empirical evidence of the kind of hitter he is.

Against right handers, Francoeur has only hit .255/.295/.403 and a .302 wOBA, which is what players who no longer are in the majors hit. To play Francoeur against a right handed pitcher is akin to just picking a person at random from the stands at Citi Field and having him or her hit; the results will probably be the same.

The sooner Francoeur realizes his only value as a player, the sooner he will see himself actually help a team win instead of costing the team more runs than he provides due to the fact he is more likely to face a right handed pitcher than a southpaw. If Francoeur refuses to accept his role, then he is much too selfish to continue to take up a spot on the Mets' roster.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Revisiting Reggie Bush

After a widely acknowledged stellar college football career at the University of Southern California, Reggie Bush has largely struggled in the NFL as a running back for the New Orleans Saints. His struggles prompted me to take a look back at his college football statistics to see if there were hints that he would under-perform on the professional level. As with my look at the three first-round running backs chosen in the NFL draft, I used success rate to truly gauge how valuable his runs were.

Reggie Bush's three seasons each took on an identity of their own. In his freshman season, for the seventy-nine runs I had play-by-play data on, he had a success rate of 53.1%, averaged 6.4 extra yards per successful run, and came up short by an average of 4.6 yards per unsuccessful run; unfortunately, I could not find the play-by-play data for his 2003 game against Arizona where he rushed for 69 yards on 11 carries with a long run of 20 yards. His first year in college, he was a pretty consistent runner, but did not explode for too many long runs.

His sophomore season was almost the exact opposite. Bush had a success rate of 49.7%, averaged 8.2 extra yards per successful run, and came up short by an average of 5.1 yards per unsuccessful run on 143. While he was more explosive as a runner, he was a lot less consistent.

It should also be noted that in both seasons, when Bush did come up short in his unsuccessful runs, he came up short by a pretty sizable margin, indicating that Bush was not above being bottled up on a regular basis.

Then came Bush's junior year, which was one of the greatest seasons a college football running back will ever experience, no matter the player's eligibility. That season, Bush had a 60.5% success rate, averaged an extra 9.4 yards per successful run, and came up short by only 3.8 yards per unsuccessful run on 200 runs. To combine that level of consistency as a running back with the multiple long runs he had is simply amazing and should be celebrated as the gold standard for a running back season.

For his complete college career, Bush posted a success rate of 55.6%, 8.2 extra yards per successful run, and 4.5 needed yards per unsuccessful run on 422 runs. This would seem like the running back resume of a player who will be a productive runner in the NFL. Yet, this has not been the case for Bush.

Instead, Reggie Bush has been a major disappointment in the NFL. For all the talent and skill he possesses, he is not even the best running back on his team. The Saints have realized that and have limited his offensive load over the past two seasons.

There are a couple of reasons why a very good college running back like Bush has failed to live up to expectations. The first reason is obvious and it could be that running backs' college numbers may not translate to the NFL like a quarterback's. Of course, that remains to be seen as I gather more data on college running backs.

The second is that his junior season was such a great season and represented such a jump over his first two college football seasons, he will never be able to reach those heights again. He might display that type of ability every now and then, but expecting him to translate such a season directly to the NFL might have been asking too much.

His more ordinary freshman and sophomore seasons seem like the truer Reggie Bush because the difference between them is less significant. In those seasons, he had a success rate of 50.9%, averaged 7.0 yards extra per successful run, and came up short by 4.9 yards per unsuccessful runs. Those are decent statistics, but are not going to blow anyone away on a consistent basis, sort of like Reggie Bush in the NFL.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

MLB Trade Round-Up Addition

In an oversight that I hope to correct now, I neglected to mention another major league player for whom a team traded for and from whom the team will receive less production than might be hoped for from the franchise's front office. When the New York Yankees acquired Kerry Wood from the Cleveland Indians, they did so to replace Chan Ho Park in the bullpen and shore up their relief pitching. Instead, the Yankees simply traded one mediocre relief pitcher for another.

One could even make the case that the Yankees actually received an inferior pitcher at the trade deadline. Before the trade was finalized, Chan Ho Park had pitched twenty-seven games for the Yankees and Kerry Wood twenty-three for the Indians. In those games, Park posted a 2.42 strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB), superior to Wood's own 1.64 K/BB ratio. Woods has really struggled with walking players in 2010, walking 4.95 hitters per nine innings. For a relief pitcher, such a walk rate is much too high.

The two pitchers were fairly similar in terms of wOBA so there is no real advantage there; Park allowed hitters a .361 wOBA and hitters who faced Wood have a .355 wOBA. Those statistics indicate facing either pitcher made players into above average hitters since an average wOBA is around .335.

Where there was another advantage for Park was in terms of fielding-independent ERA (FIP) and expected fielding-independent ERA (xFIP). Fielding-independent ERA helps you understand how good a pitcher pitched regardless of the defense behind him and expected fielding-independent ERA does the same while normalizing a pitcher's home run rates so pitchers who have been unlucky in the number of home runs given up are not penalized unduly. Expected fielding-independent ERA is one of the best pitching metrics to use to determine a pitcher's future ERA.

Once again demonstrating how closely matched the pitchers' seasons have been, Park's FIP was 5.14 with the Yankees while Wood's was 5.20 with the Indians. However, Park's xFIP of 4.34 was much lower than Wood's xFIP of 5.03. Therefore, we could expect that Park will end the season with better overall numbers than Wood.

The reason why there is more of a difference between Park's xFIP and his FIP is that he had been very unlucky with giving up home runs. There was no reason to believe his home run per fly ball ratio will stay at 15.2%, which is much higher than league average. When Park's home run to fly ball ratio does come down, he will become almost a full run better on the mound.

On the other hand, Wood's home run per fly ball ratio of 11.5% is much closer to league average so the rate at which he has given up home runs is much less likely to change. The same goes for the number of runs he gives up.

With Kerry Wood, the Yankees have not made their bullpen any better since he, like Park before him, cannot be trusted to pitch high leverage innings. The Yankees would best be served using Wood in games whether they either have a sizable lead or a sizable deficit. Otherwise, his propensity to transform every hitter into an above average one would only lead to the Yankees losing games.