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Tampa Bay pitchers unlucky?


mweb

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Guess what pitching staff leads the league in strikeouts? You guessed it, the TB Devil Rays! They have given up the 9th most walks though. They're 11th in k/bb ratio. Now despite leading the majors in k's, they have the worst BAA in baseball at .292. .267 is the average. TB has the lowest DIPS% of any team at 80%. Now they have given up the 3rd most hr's in MLB. However, some on here don't think pitchers have much control over hr's allowed besides their FB/GB ratio.

It seems like TB's IF defense has been quite bad besides Pena, so I would think that has a lot to do with this. However, none of those guys figure to be starters at those positions after next year.

So bottomline, maybe TB's pitching is quite a bit better than we think, and regardless of the young talent on the way, it will improve a decent amount.

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I'm with Mweb, TB's pitching is not as bad as some might think. I also think the FIP for TB is somewhat misleading (dirty little secret: FIP and such aren't really totaly independent of defense).

As Mweb implies with the Ks and batting average against, its difficult to put into words how bad Tampa Bay's defense has been this year. Much worse than any other team.

To expound on what I think Mweb is getting at in his second paragraph, TB's defense is such an extreme outlier that it skews the info to be gleaned from advanced pitching measures like FIP by boosting BB+HBP/IP and home runs/IP and lowering K abilty (but ironically helping K/IP, see below), because bad defense means:

1) more batters faced, which means more pitches (i.e less stamina, which hurts strikeout ability and hurts control) and

2) more plate appearances thrown from the stretch (most pitchers are significantly better from the windup)

3) greater reliance on the back end of the bullpen, (see #1)

4) more hrs, because fewer batted balls become outs, and as HRs are *largely* a function of flyballs allowed, fewer batted balls becoming outs means more batted balls overall and thus more flyballs overall, so more home runs overall.

FIP = (HR*13+(BB+HBP)*3-K*2)/IP plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number.

We can all see how the bigger the denominator (all else equal), the lower the FIP.

As the denominator is IP (or 3 outs), the failure to turn batted balls into outs means fewer innings for a given number of batters faced. Yes this boosts K/IP by "artifically" lowering the number of non-K outs but this "plus" is outweighed by the increase in BB+HBP/IP and the decrease in K ability as pitchers tire and the back end of the bullpen pitches more and most importantly, the increase in home runs/IP.

In MLB just over 1/3rd of all runs score on home runs - the importance of preventing home runs to overall run prevention cannot be overstated.

For an exmaple of this phenomenon, look no further than Chien-Ming Wang. Wang has a well, well below average career K rate (3.7) (and a less the special 1.6 K/BB) but a killer career FIP 3.98 because he only allows .5 HR/9.

Tropicana field is also a pretty good home run park link, so TB should allow more home runs than the expected 11%/fb in a neutral context, but TB's 13% HR/FB ratio is not crazy out of line, so their FIP is not really bad luck on flyballs.

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As Mweb implies with the Ks and batting average against, its difficult to put into words how bad Tampa Bay's defense has been this year. Much worse than any other team.

Yep, but how do you fix it? For the most part, these great young hitters they have can't play defense, and you can't put 6 of them at DH.

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Yep, but how do you fix it? For the most part, these great young hitters they have can't play defense, and you can't put 6 of them at DH.

The infield is where they have really been wow bad, in particular the middle infield. As mweb says next year Pena, who is an above average defender, will likely be the only infielder who keeps his post. Iwamura will likely be at 2B with Longeria, who should be an average defender at worse, at 3B. SS is up in the air but the team is very interested in signing one of the no-hit, good glove SSs who will be on the market (free agents include Eckstein, Izturis, Perez, Uribe, Vizquel) and they have the bats to cover a defender at SS. And Reid Brignac is maturing in the wings.

Meanwhile in the OF I think there is reason to believe seasoning will help. Crawford is already a decent defender. Upton is new to his position and while very raw now has the talent to play CF, and should improve as he gets used to reading balls. Who knows, you might even have Baldelli on the field for at least a few games and he is a strong defender. Young will perhaps never be a plus defender but isn't the worst problem on the field either.

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Yep, but how do you fix it? For the most part, these great young hitters they have can't play defense, and you can't put 6 of them at DH.

They already have (or easily can with Gomes) fixed their D's big problems:

No BJ at 2b (-8 runs) - check

No Dukes in CF (-13 runs) - check

No Young in CF (-8 runs)- check

No Gomes on the field (-9 runs) - check

No Wigginton at 2b/1B (-14 runs) - check

Have BJ in center (where he is an average or maybe plus defender) - check

The runs values are from THT (see David Gassko's August 27 entry). They are just a summation of plays above/below average in zone and plays above/below average out of zone and then compared to the average at the psotion, so its a rough estimate (there are also sample size issues), but they give a rough idea as to how bad these particular players were.

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Iwamura at 2b? I dunno, but he's horrible at 3rd (- 11 runs) and 2b generally is a harder position to play. But other than Aki, they have already fixed most of their glaring defensive holes.

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In case its not obvious, TB's defensive problems this year are not limited to their infield, although their outfield problems are largely fixed as long as Gomes doesn't get to use his glove.

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