Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chico Harlan, Sabermetrician

This should not go unnoticed. In the middle of an otherwise normal article by Chico Harlan about the Nationals' base-running in the Washington Post we get this:
For Acta, a 70 percent success rate marks the line between helpful and damaging. If you can swipe second seven times in 10, you get an eternal greenlight on Acta's team. When Milledge -- the team's newly appointed leadoff man -- reached first against Moehler on Sunday, he had the green light. His decision-making would dictate the fate of Washington's inning. According to data gathered in 2008, teams with a runner on first and nobody out average 0.900 runs that frame. Make it to second with no outs, and that number jumps only to 1.150. Try for second and get caught, though, and you have none on and one out -- and the number crashes to 0.279. In other words: A failure would cost Milledge more than success would help.
Oh yeah, that's a run expectancy stat in the Washington Post. You keep hating your job just like this, Chico. I don't care what they say about you--you're ok in my book.


Mike said...

Barry also used to dabble in stats, at least some of them of the sabermetric kind.

I think that, very soon, anti-SABRism is going to be distinctly uncool. Just as, curiously, sabermetricians are appreciating the "intuitiveness" ( = phenomenal data aggregation and processing capability + optional eidetic memory) of the best scouts.

Positively Half St. said...

Steven (and Hendo, if you read this response)-

We are getting to the end of ST, and this question may not be as important as in years past. Still- do you have any idea of players on other (better) teams out of options that could end up available for the Natas to snag before the season?

Honestly, I don't care that Kory Casto is out of options. He is a non-prospect. However, maybe someone not quite good enough to play for Boston or Anaheim could make our roster as a backup middle infielder.

Positively Half St. said...

Nats, not "Natas," of course.

Steven said...

This link is on the "Resources" section at right:


e poc said...

I have an irrational love for Milledge, but even I think that letting him make his own baserunning decisions is probably not the best idea.

Craig said...

i'm with e poc. i like lastings more than i should. but i don't think he should be make big game decisions like this.

of course, it does support my "Manny doesn't really care" theory.

jg3 said...

Thanks for leading the pro-Chico cheer on this one, Steven. I pointed this out as a particularly interesting bit of data to a buddy.

I don't know what makes a stat SABR or not, but I know what is too obscure to be immediately useful to an attentive but casual game-watcher. I don't have to be able to calculate it after my second beer, but I do have to be able to comprehend it at that point. ...while sitting in the sun.

And as for Milledge running, I say we give him the stat-based green light and lots of instruction.


Unknown said...

I like Lastings more than good sense allows too.

I was also a huge Grissom fan back in the Montreal day. I honestly believe the man can work a miracle or two and make Milledge a good runner and a serviceable fielder.

e poc said...

On the topic of Lastings (sorry if I'm threadjacking a little bit), I'm super glad that they're trying to teach him a little bit about prudent gambling on the basepaths, and I share redcottage's hope that Grissom (or someone) can turn him into a good fielder and smart baserunner, but part of me sees this as another detail in a big picture project to completely change Milledge as a player. Of course, if it means he's a better baserunner and a better fielder, that's good. But I'm really worried about what they're trying to do with him as an offensive player. Beginning with Lenny last year, and continuing with the new hitting coach, the Nats are apparently trying to get him to change his approach at the plate and go the other way more. Acta seems in on this, too, declaring Milledge a leadoff hitter and suggesting that he's good at getting on base. That's not his game. He's honestly not terribly good at getting on base, and he's definitely not the kind of guy who needs to take pitches the other way. What he needs to do is lay off the outside breaking pitches and rake anything middle-in to left field. That's what he's been successful with his whole career. He'll get his fair share of walks when pitchers who are scared of his bat try to nibble on the outside or get him to chase off the plate, and he'll crush anything in the inner half. Getting him to go the other way will sap his power, like last year. Telling him just to get on base and steal 40 bags is not the way to go with Milledge. It always bothers me when coaches mess with enormously talented players; you'd think major league coaches would be smart enough to help players capitalize on their strengths and minimize their weaknesses rather than trying to change their approach completely. Anyway, if he turns into a poor man's Jose Reyes, I'll be okay with that, but I always thought he could be a poor man's Carlos Beltran.

Steven said...

can't forget how young lastings is. If they're trying to get LMillz to go the other way more and become a slappy singles hitter, that would be bad. If they're just trying to help him command the strike zone better and get more pitches to hit, that would be good. I suspect Lenny wasn't thinking that much about any of this. I'm optimistic about Milledge for 2009 though. No promises, but he could definitely up his game.

Mike said...

I am still sore at Lenny, because if I'd known he was such an avid cardplayer I'd have recruited him to be my bridge partner, but he never let on.

It is fascinating to watch Eckstein's approach. Or perhaps I should say it is fascinating to watch somebody that has an approach.

Mike Liszewski said...

Chico is running circles around Boz. I check out the Post sports section a lot more these days because of him.

I think Milledge is going to have minor break-out season, and basically establish the the type of numbers he'll consistently put up for most of his career. I think his predicted stats on Fangraphs are about in the right proportion, but I'd about a dozen more games and 50 more PAs. I know that seems generous given the Nats outfield glut, but I have a hunch by Memorial Day, 2 of the OFs will be on the DL, and I think Milledge is going to be the healthiest of the crew. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm starting to get paranoid that Dukes is going to be on the DL a third of his career and basically be a rich man's David Segui.

Lastings is definitely one of my favorite players in baseball, his enthusiasm and obvious love of the game are a pretty tough combination not to like in the this era (yet Mets fans somehow couldn't see that).

That said, I'm scared about him getting the green light at will. Maybe depending on who's catching you could give him the open green light within that game, but not a regular policy.