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Sunday notes

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Sorry guys, no big analytical post today.  I decided to get out of my mother's basement and actually do something this weekend, and didn't have time to complete my loosely scheduled post.  In case anybody cares, I had the idea to look at how in the hell Adam Wainwright was able to add 2 strikeouts per 9 last year, with his walk and ground ball rates completely unaffected.  Pitch f/x was my tool of choice to investigate that.  Wainwright is much easier to deal with than Penny, as he throws 4 distinct pitches and it's much easier to sort through his data.  So I was able to make some good headway on the post.  Should make for an interesting read next week!

At any rate, with just a few days before spring training, there has been some surprisingly interesting stuff going on over the past few days.  In fact, just enough for me to drag it out into a notes style post.  That, of course, means bullet points.

  • This weekend's "what?!" bit of news comes courtesy of the Astros and their decision to resign Ed Wade through 2012.  Over the past three years, the Astros have won 48% of their games and have finished no higher than 3rd place in any of those years.  CHONE and PECOTA project them to win 72 and 77 games respectively next year, with the latter projecting a last place finish.  Keith Law's recent prospect rankings have them the proud owners of the 28th best farm system in baseball.  To top all of that off, the newly acquired basically-Ryan-Fraklin-but-for-3-years-and-15-million Brandon Lyon recently had a cyst in his shoulder removed and is already behind schedule.  To be frank, the Astros are in crummy shape as a franchise right now.  I don't know enough about Ed Wade to comment on his extension, but he hasn't done much of anything in during his time in Houston so far, and had a pretty mediocre offseason this year by most accounts.  Whatever Dayton, it's your ridiculously high valued franchise. 
  • In another bit of intra-division news, Carlos Zambrano has apparently decided to drop his cut fastball.  As Harry Pavlidis shows, his cutter has been one of his best pitches over the past three years, consistently being over a run better than league average per 100 pitches.  As Harry states, it's possible that throwing the cutter is causing arm discomfort for Zambrano that could result in an injury.  If that is indeed the case, than Z might just have to sacrifice some effectiveness for improved health.  I wonder if Chris or Hazel have any opinions on the matter
  • Matthew at FanGraphs has been doing some work recently on how ground balls correlate with other aspects of pitcher (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - don't worry about the quantity, the articles are very quick reads).  Basically, he finds that as a pitcher's ground ball rate increases, other aspects of a pitcher's game are affected as well, including his runs allowed, which goes improves by about a half a run per 9 for a pitcher with a 55% ground ball rate vs. a 35% ground ball rate.  However, the R^2 of that relationship is very low, and it's likely not highly significant.  When doing my own investigation of ground balls, I found results that somewhat contradicted Matthew's.  Furthermore, David Gassko concluded four years ago that having a high ground ball rate, in and of it self, is not of huge importance for major league pitchers.  The thing to take away from this is that there is no clear judgment on the advantages of being a ground ball pitcher, and any such advantage would appear to be very small. 
  • Over at Beyond the Boxscore, Jeff Zimmerman uses Josh Hermsmeyer's newly released injury database to investigate the effective salary loss of each team due to injuries from 2002-2009.  Despite the Cardinal's much maligned medical staff and their penchants for fucking over the team with last minute surgery decisions a week before spring training starts, the Cards are in the middle of the pack in terms of salary lost due to injury, with roughly 15% of their total payroll going to the dead weight.  Interestingly, at first glance, there appears to be little relationship between a teams healthiness and their success.  To be honest, that's shocking to me, as I would have thought injuries to be one of the biggest factor in a team's performance.
  • Graham at Lookout Landing has a series of mini primers on the basics of Sabermetrics.  He uses a very readable and organized format, and the series looks to be very promising so far.
  • John Sickels recently wrote a post regarding the current state of Sabermetrics.  From what I surmised, he felt that some of the more recent advances were simply not interesting to him, and he did not enjoy reading about them.  As a prospect maven, John is probably more selective about what stuff he finds useful for his work than the average writer so I don't necessarily think his complaints should be taken as an indictment of the current work done.  However, it is clear, like with all subjects in life, there are fewer major advancements to be made, and a larger percentage of the research is going to be dealing with more granular and esoteric subjects.  That isn't a bad thing, as better accuracy and presentation is always a good thing; however, it does have the possible side affect of causing more disinterest in that work.

So as a writer/researcher myself, I am going to ask you guys what you would like to see more of in current Sabermetric research.  Please be as specific as possible (and I swear to god RiverRat if you mention Penny I will banish you to BCB), and don't be afraid to insult everyone but me.