Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good Luck, Bad Luck

We've been working recently on introducing a report similar to one we used to publish a few years ago called "Good Luck, Bad Luck" which, if all goes as planned, will be part of a larger effort on our part to consolidate much of the most useful statistical info into a new-style newsletter, enabling readers to get items such as the weekly depth charts, week ahead reports and others possibly as early as Friday rather than having to wait for the weekends, when they're available at the site for all to see.  We're not sure of the details yet but at least elements of this old luck report will likely be a part of this effort and we're aiming for something that gives us a bit more flexibility on the presentation, such as an Adobe .pdf style newsletter.  Details will follow, probably at some point in June, but we think this could greatly enhance the free side of our site (the subscription side remaining the weekly-revised statistical player projections and ranking sheets).

As we've been toying with some of the information to include in such a report, we recently produced one of those old-style luck reports on the current year stats, through play completed last Thursday.  It revealed a few interesting things that reminded me of why I really liked having that information easily available.  Here are a few items that jumped out, again through play completed last Thursday:

Wes Helms has been picking up singles on 36% of the balls he has put in play, through play completed last week.  To put that in perspective, that's well above the typical league-leading level for any player and Ichiro led all of baseball last year with a 31.5% rate.  In other words, Helms' average so far this season is at least partially the result of some pretty favorable luck.

Put Sterlin Castro into that category too as heading into last weekend, he had been singling on 35% of the balls he had put in play.

Other players who were topping Ichiro's rate of singles per ball in play of 2009 include Elvis Andrus, Jamey Carroll, Mike Aviles, Ryan Theriot and Edgar Renteria.

On the flipside of the equation, there were some players who were having some pretty miserable luck on singles falling in.  Included among them was Aaron Hill, who had an incredibly low 11% of balls in play falling in for singles as of the end of last week.  To put that in perspective, a 13% or 14% would normally be the lowest we would see here among the worst player in the league (Carlos Pena was the lowest among qualifiers last year at 13.3%) and Hill himself had a rate of 20.1% last year in this column.  To say Hill has been unlucky would an understatement as there's no way this rate will stay at 11% in the long run even if he has become a worse hitter than his track record implies.

Hill's not alone at achieving incredibly low, and likely unlucky, singles rates so far this year as Carlos Quentin was on the list at 12% and the surprisingly-powerful Jose Bautista is also there at 12%.

On the pitching side of bad luck, Carlos Zambrano has seen 40% of balls in play, other than home runs, fall in for base hits and that rate is so high that there's no way it can't come down if he keeps pitching.  Others on that list included Doug Davis (39%), Bud Norris (38%), Justin Masterson (38%), Brandon Morrow (37%) and Gavin Floyd (37%).

On the lucky side of balls falling in for hits, Livan Hernandez has been not only incredibly lucky but almost historically lucky here in that just 18% of balls in play, other than home runs, have fallen for hits.  This is a rate that is virtually guaranteed to go way up and when it does, the rest of his pitching numbers will fall in line with exactly the type of pitcher everyone already knows he is.  Other names on the lucky list include Jason Vargas (21%), Jamie Moyer (22%), Doug Fister (22%) and Ubaldo Jimenez (22%). One name on the list was a surprise because even showing up here, he's still not having a good season and that is Todd Wellemeyer.  He has seen only 20% of his non-HR balls in play fall for hits, this even as his ERA keeps flirting with the mid-5's.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a few highlights from this report as we're working on something new that will likely include elements of this report.