Hello there, BtBS readers. Today, I'd like to try something a little different. We've tried links posts at our site before -- you know, those articles that just point you in the direction of other articles at other sites. With Twitter, it's not always terribly useful, even though we love calling attention to the stuff we like to read.
So, we'll do something like that here, but we'll throw in a little extra discussion and commentary -- basically the idea is to spark some discussion, and provide a viewpoint or some context in addition to just pointing out in the direction of good baseball stuff. It's a work in progress, so if you have any comments / questions / etc., please don't hesitate to reach out, and join in the discussion.
Without a doubt, this was the biggest public analytics story of the past few days. Judge, who with Harry Pavlidis and Dan Brooks created the public's best model for pitch framing, applied the same statistical mixed model approach to FIP in order to create a new metric. Judge's contextual FIP is, well, complex, but it fights the good fight of trying to be both descriptive and predictive, a duality that most pitching metrics can't quite accomplish.
Personally, I like it. A mixed model approach seems like a good one for taking into account context, and using a RE24/PA and run expectancy basis is something that gives this metric a different flavor. Using standard deviations to derive the final number is different than using, say, a percentage of shift from league average, and may prove a barrier to explaining the metric quickly or cleanly in articles -- but it's neat from a research perspective.
There's been a lot of good discussion on the metric, for example a nice Twitter back and forth between BP's Rob Arthur and BtBS and FanGraphs' Neil Weinberg. Neil stressed caution and that the complex metric may prove needlessly complex for common use, while Rob advocated for moving the development of metrics forward. Arthur's assertion that the pitching statistics we have now "aren't very good' is one I'd disagree with, but I'd like to hear his reasoning.
Obviously, there's a middle ground. I don't believe cFIP has much use to the rank-and-file fans watching baseball and enjoying the game without delving deeply into the stands, even if it does work as a descriptive statistic. Does it possibly have use to those in front offices evaluating talent, or trying to model future performance? Absolutely.
(Neil also came to the same conclusion I did while reading the article: that while the new metric is great, and perhaps more specific than what came before, we still can use very, very simple tools like kwERA -- or Glenn DuPaul's pFIP -- to get most of the data we need to make a good decision. It's still all about strikeouts and walks.)
Over at his blog, Tom Tango raised what may be the most crucial critique of the metric: that the critical factor shouldn't necessarily be that it correlates with itself year-to-year, but rather is able to help predict future results.
There's a lot -- and I do mean a lot -- to unpack in this discussion. I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more mixed model approaches to metrics in the future, and I, for one, welcome our future R-using overlords.
Framing. Catcher framing. Pitch framing. I figure I should mention it three times, since it's been such a hot topic in analytics and public sabermetrics over the past couple of years. This article doesn't tell us anything new, but it does show us how recent research is filtering down to the players.
In this article, Flowers admits to being interested in learning how to be a better framer, but disinterested in the exact numbers or their precision. If you're a front office, I'd estimate that this is exactly the attitude you'd be looking for in your guys.
Best of all, there are four paragraphs right in the middle of the article that talk about exactly what Flowers is doing to try and be a better framer, and why -- things like lowering the glove to the ground prior to the pitch being thrown, rotating his mitt to get more plate coverage -- despite where the ball crosses the plate -- and lowering his body four inches to get more time to frame.
There's been a lot of talk in saber circles on what pitch framing is worth, but now we're getting some good player development information on how to do it. That's just as much fun as crunching the numbers or building a mixed model.
Bring your green hat! Our own Matt Jackson penned a great piece on three pitcher streaks worth keeping an eye on during this season. If you need more reason to watch Mark Buehrle, Stephen Strasburg, or the combo of Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera this year, well, I don't really know what's wrong with you. But here it is.
Question of the Day: How do you feel about streaks crossing over from season to season? I'm not a huge fan of arbitrary endpoints -- but should we consider the start or end to a season as arbitrary? Things change in the offseason, don't they? Do they change enough to make streaks crossing between seasons somehow less relevant? My vote's no -- the streaks crossing seasons are just as interesting / good / official as in-season streaks -- but maybe I could be convinced otherwise.
(My greatest regret? Given the Will Ferrell references, and the fact that today he's playing in five or so baseball games in 10 or so different positions, we should've changed the hyperlink to include Ferrell's name. Gotta get those sweet, sweet SEO wins.)
BP dubbed Monday Clayton Kershaw Day, and posted probably a dozen articles on the Dodgers' superstar hurler. The biggest criticism I heard of this event came from our Neil Weinberg:
Pretty upset none of us came up with Kershaw Day.
Kershaw Day done wrong would've been, well, boring. Fortunately, there was enough different stuff going on to keep it interesting. I particularly liked Jeff Long's piece on how he's underrated, R.J. Anderson's piece on Kershaw's other skill, and the retro interview by David Laurila from eight years back.
It's always nice to try and remember when we're watching a terrific player in their prime, and remind ourselves to enjoy it while it lasts. I have a feeling -- just a feeling, nothing analytic -- that we only have another year or so of peak Kershaw to enjoy. Let's make the most of it.
This is kind of interesting, but of course it's impossible to tell what this means right now. My personal hopes? The quality of content stays pretty much the same, but the presentation of said content takes a step forward. The important thing, I think, is that ownership called out how great the current staff is, and indicated that it would remain intact.
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Bryan Grosnick is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @bgrosnick.