The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Notta Lotta

Not a lot going on above the surface here, but I've got a couple of things cooking in the lab, in between trips to the doctor to determine the extent to which my once-repaired right shoulder is in need of further attention following a skiing mishap. Thursday's the big day for the reading of the MRI; just because my father is a radiologist doesn't mean I can read the films myself, even if this is the second time around.

Anyway, the main project in the lab is DIPS 2005. Given that the DIPS 2.0 formula is now on its fifth go-round (fourth at this site), I've wavered on whether to proceed with publishing the numbers, a deliberation that conveniently coincided with the chaos of Book Season. But now that daylight has returned, I've concluded that there's a considerable value of maintaining a DIPS hub here -- my Tufts U. pals, among others, seem to appreciate it -- to round up the latest work in the field.

This year's review will include a look at David Gassko's DIPS 3.0 which was introduced at Hardball Times in August and is reportedly revisted in their annual book, which I have on order at the moment. DIPS 3.0 uses batted ball types (ground ball, fly ball, line drive) to project ERA, and it appears to do a very nice job of doing so with current season performance. However, my preliminary investigations as to its year-to-year predictive powers appear to indicate that it's no better than DIPS 2.0 at that task. Gassko admittedly had focused on the system's current-season utility rather than its utility as a projection tool. I'll be interested to see what he has to say in the annual, which gets an exhaustive comb-thru by my unrelated namesake, Chris Jaffe, at that steel-cage battleground, Baseball Think Factory. Jaffe length, indeed.

Also brewing in the lab, yet somewhat derailed by the demands of the stat crew putting together Baseball Prospectus 2006, is a PECOTA-based look at the two pitchers (Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany) whom the Dodgers traded to Tampa Bay over the weekend for relievers Danys Baez and Lance Carter. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the trade -- aside from speculation about the health of closer Eric Gagne -- is that Dodger GM Ned Colletti finally broke the seal on the bevy of prospects the team has in its system. In overhauling the team via a flurry of moves last month, Colletti had, surprisingly, resisted trading prospects for veterans. It was bound to end sooner or later, and while I'm not particularly impressed by the returns -- there's enough meh in Baez to make me surprised he didn't wind up on the Mets, and don't even get me started about the craptacularity of Carter -- I don't think this is a backbreaking deal for the Dodgers either. They're dealing from strength, looking for the extra couple of wins that might win them the weak NL West, and there are millions of reasons why that's a good idea.

Jackson, you'll recall, outdueled Randy Johnson in his big-league debut, which also happened to be his 20th birthday. But in the two-plus years since, he's been unable to harness that potential he gave us a glimpse of; his big-league ERA stands at 5.50 through 75.3 innings. He's bombed so badly in the Dodgers' Triple-A outpost of hell known as Las Vegas, with ERAs straight off of a Boeing assembly line, that the Dodgers sent him back to Double-A last year. His velocity is down, his mechanics are messed up, his confidence is shot. He needs a fresh start, and while as a Dodger fan it pains me to see him go, I wish the kid the best. Seriously.

Both Rich Lederer and Bryan Smith have done a nice job of covering this at Baseball Analysts, as has Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts, so I'll save my bullets for another day. The points I'd stick by for the moment are that among Dodger pitching prospects, Jackson and Tiffany would rate well behind Chad Billingsley, Jon Broxton, and Scott Elbert, and that the LA organization's player development system continues to be hampered by the fact that Vegas is brutal for pitchers. It's not too far off from sending a guy to Coors Field to learn how to pitch. Tiffany -- an Extreme (capital E, as in 0.58 groundball/flyball ratio according to Baseball America) flyball pitcher -- is the kind of player whose value after going through the Vegas meatgrinder (likely in 2007, given that he spent '05 at Vero Beach) could be severely lessened.

Anyway, here's hoping my data ship comes in soon, so that I can add something a bit more substantial to the discussion. For those of you with a subscription, at least...

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