Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A quick and dirty look at xBB% and x SO%

Every winter I try to increase my baseball forecasting knowledge in one way or another.  This is not the easiest thing for me to do in large part due to my lack of advanced math skills and lack of time (or effort, but I am going to say time).  Two years ago I compiled my spreadsheet of baseball players with a number of different stats from the previous season, but didn’t really include any predictive measures other than using my common sense.  Last year was my first year purchasing Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster.  Using his 2013 projections along with ZiPs projection and the prior two season statistics, I tried to get a quick look at average projections in triple slash statistics for both pitchers and hitters.  This work has been based mostly on willingness of time spent rather than amount of thought used, which isn’t really so bad, and I did find some interesting results using predictive skills of baseball minds much smarter than myself. 
This year I have yet to do too much, as in my mind I want to use expected 2013 measures and use aging curve data to try to predict how this data will increase or decrease.  For hitters, using Fangraphs xBABIP, xBB%, xSO%, normalized HR/FB and LOB% along with aging curve changes seem to be my best bet for predicting future success.  But doing this all at once in an intelligent manner is becoming hard, especially since I try to do all this during my down time at work (shhh). 
Anyways, using Mike Podhorzer’s interesting formulas for expected walk and strike outpercentages, I wanted to see if any Royals had any major differences from their actual results.  First, the hitters: (sorry for messy formatting)
From these results I see a couple interesting things:
-Continuing concern for Billy Butler: By the equation, Butler very well could be walking at a higher rate than his current skill set, along with striking out less than his expected output.  Couple this with a BABIP that came back down to earth in 2013, and a career low ISO last year and there is reason for concern.  If we do see a power uptick from Butler next season, it could come at the expense of some walks and more strikeouts, leading to a decrease in BA and OBP.  Still, Butler turns just 28 next season and 2012 isn’t that long ago, so he is a hard guy to project offensively moving forward.  I am not overly optimistic, however.
-It is no fluke that Perez and Escobar do not walk: In fact, xBB% numbers gave both a lower percentage than the very low levels of last season.  Obviously, offense is not really the reason these two are in the starting lineup.  Perez does display a serviceable offensive skillset for a guy with his defensive reputation, age, and contract.  I do not see him suddenly figuring out how to take a walk, I think the skillset we see now is more or less what he is.  Escobar has some pretty serious issues offensively, basically nullifying the defensive value he gives to the team, and he is an elite defensive shortstop.  A positive for Escobar, his BABIP last season was .264, his expected BABIP was .338.  Even without this nugget, it goes without saying that there is nowhere to go but up for Escobar’s bat in 2014. 
-Alex Gordon is the team’s best hitter: Alex Gordon turns 30 next month, and I have little reason to expect much regression if any from him in 2014.  I have never been a huge fan of Gordon, but he is a clear above average player and should be a cog in the lineup wherever they put him this season.  Gordon’s walk percentage went down from 10.1 to 7.4 from 2012 to 2013, but if you believe in his xBB% figure it is fair to expect a rebound in walks in 2014. 
-Norichika Aoki is a weird player: As far as I am concerned Aoki and Andrelton Simmons have the weirdest batted ball profiles in the major leagues.  While Aoki’s xSO% was a tick higher than his actual total, he still was expected to strike out about half the amount of everyone on the Royals save Salvador Perez last season.  He makes a crazy amount of contact, the best of qualified hitters last year, and if you trust LD% he would have one of the lowest percentages in the league. For two years, he has been short of his xBABIP by about 50 points, which is why The Spitter loves him.  I was wondering if Aoki’s crazy strike out totals were at all fluky, but they seem to not be.  I am comfortable saying he is the best in the game at making contact, even if he isn’t hitting the ball all that hard sometimes.
I don’t know what this means at all for the 2014 Royal’s, but I did find this to be a sort of interesting exercise.

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