10 April 2006

Scouting Umpires...

Having alluded to this in my last post, here's an explanation. I've decided to start an "Umpire Project" for this season, tracking MLB umpires as they call balls and strikes over the season. This, as I'm well aware, has been more or less "done." That's fine- I think what I'm going to do is both different and likely a bit less useful than the studies I've seen on the subject. My focus is going to be on logging a few things on an umpire's performance each night which I hope will start to show certain tendencies- pitcher's umpire, hitter's umpire. I'd like to see if any are overwhelmingly swayed by the home crowd, if they're more inconsistent than others, if they give calls to hitters with good plate discipline that they don't to hitters without it.

The idea basically grew out of the way I like to casually "scout" a game before it starts- looking how a Sox pitcher stacks up against a lineup, how a pitcher stacks up against our lineup, the weather, the park factors, the defenses. One thing I can't seem to keep in my head definitively (with some exceptions) is the quality/ style of each umpire. I have some sort of mental block on it.

Basically, I want to build up a log of "scouting" of the umpires- I'm not, in this specific instance, going to focus on their statistical results, because as I've been said, it's been done, and it's been done well. I want to build up a collection of data that will be able to stand as reference for myself going into games. Certainly not crucial information, but certainly interesting information.

Here's what I plan to do. Each game, I'm going to tally "Objectively Bad Calls"- calls that are glaringly wrong- "Borderline Bad Calls"- calls that appear on the edge, but incorrect- and "Glaring Inconsistencies"- calls that are obviously called one way in a given instance, and another soon thereafter. The latter category will be used a lot less, and will always "require" a note along with it. Each category, further, will be broken down by home/ visiting team. I'll note date, starting pitchers, game time, and, of course, the umpire's name.

Additionally, I'll take notes throughout. Not having done this yet, I'm going by trial and error a lot here, but in the "notes" section, I'll elaborate on the tallies, and track whether the umpire is giving the outside calls, the high strike, a small strike zone- etc. Eventually I may decide that there is a data point I want to record more specifically than the "notations" will allow, but for now, that's how I'm going to roll. Finally, based on all these things, I'm going to give the umpire two scores- one as a number out of 50 based on the overall quality of the game he called, and one along a +/- scale, to ten in each way. Anything below zero, up to negative ten, is a pitcher's strike zone. Anything above zero, up to ten, is a hitter's strike zone.

Looking forward to it, and I may "publish" certain "findings" here. Should be fun.

Coco Crisp has a non-displaced fracture on his left index finger, at the joint, suffered in Saturday's game against the Baltimore Orioles.

This is bad, but it's not the end of the world- the much talked about depth the Red Sox currently have is now going to be flexed a bit. To take Crisp's roster spot for the time being will likely be Dustan Mohr. The OF will most likely look like this:

vs RHP
LF- Manny Ramirez
CF- Adam Stern
RF- Trot Nixon

vs LHP
LF- Manny Ramirez
CF- Dustan Mohr
RF- Wily Mo Pena

Adam Stern is probably at least Crisp's equal defensively in CF, while having a slight upgrade in arm strength. This, in the majority of the games (against RHP), is arguably the most important part. Stern isn't a stretch in CF defensively. Stern probably won't hit a ton- but while he's been middling in very limited ABs in Boston, he's also put up two consecutive stints in the mLs with an OPS over 800- 858 in 394 ABs at AA Greenville in 2004, and an 879 in 81 ABs at AAA Pawtucket last year.

Now, against LHP, the Sox will start two guys that theoretically can play CF, but neither of whom do it particularly well. Pena probably has better range, but his routes and jumps are still very "green." It's obviously not set in stone, but if it were me, Mohr would stick in CF. Pena can actually do a really good job in Fenway's RF. Pena has a three-year split against LHP of 883 (536 SLG), and Mohr's is at 815 (907 in 2005). These two sets of lineups can actually be really effective if used strictly. I don't see why Stern should be hitting against LHP, and why Mohr should be in against RHP at any point.

Initially, the reports appeared to have Crisp being gone for 4-8 weeks. Today, however, team doctor Thomas Gill released a statement pointing out that Crisp would be in a splint for ten days, at which point he will be re-evaluated based on his level of healing. This re-evaluation will determine if it's a major or minor injury, and Gill emphasized that surgery is, at the moment, out of the picture.

So that's an improved diagnosis that was initially reported. At this point in the year, allowing Crisp to heal fully is optimal, and letting our OF depth help us shouldn't be a huge issue.

Hopefully this drastically cuts down on the whole "headfirst slide" chip in Coco's brain.

So Ortiz' new contract press conference was today, and it was a gooey, fuzzy lovefest. Good stuff. I've personally defended players who leave a team for money- I don't think it's an evil thing to do, and I don't think a guy should be criticized for it, to make a long story short. But that being said, when a player shows the foresight to realize that they're in a situation that is best for them, and that releasing their services on the open market is a pointless exercise. Derrek Lee did this same today as well.

Do I think David Ortiz in, say, 2009 will be worth what David Ortiz was worth in, say, 2005? No, probably not. But a team like the Red Sox often has to extend themselves past what is determined as a cold, hard value to keep an elite player. The Red Sox can afford to be burned in the last years of a deal if it means keeping a player through the remainder of their effective years at elite levels (especially in the absence of a comparable option- ie, Jason Varitek and Pedro Martinez).

99% of the time, the idea that a player like Ortiz *may* go to a competitor- especially New York- isn't really a notion that lets you effect his negotiations and value determination. But this falls in that 1%. Ortiz on the Yankees, A's, or even Cleveland (hypothetically) would be disastrous. I think I'd claw my eyes out seeing him in a Yankee uniform.

This signing appears more in the line of the Varitek and Nixon one- where the front office makes a marked point to acknowledge the player's value to the franchise as a whole in determining the contract value. This can most basically be described as "intangibles" (numbskullery), but more specifically, it's setting a precedent that in many ways effects the negotiations with players in the future. The front office is saying that if you perform, and adapt yourself to this atmosphere in such a way that you make your teammates better (an abstraction that is probably not able to be proven, but is something that players attest to in some small part), you'll be rewarded. I guess one can draw one's own conclusions as to why certain other players weren't signed.

Do I think David Ortiz being an amazing guy and great teammate helps the Red Sox on the field? No, not really. Do I think the precedent set in signing him- and signing him early- helps the franchise given his off-the-field contributions? Yes, absolutely. A great day. Looking forward to David Ortiz as a Sox through (at least) 2010.

Jon Lester's final line:

2.1 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 3/3 K/BB, 0/4 GB/FB

Pulled after 59 pitches (he was on a 60 pitch count to start the year). Not a great start, but word had him touching 95 MPH. It sounds like he may have been overthrowing a bit, perhaps pumped up. His command, like in Spring Training, was not there, and that should be something that hopefully improves rapidly.

______________________________ |