Thursday, May 11, 2006

Good bye, sane Jim Tracy

Jim Tracy before today's now rained out game after being asked about Jeromy Burnitz being in the lineup again:

I'm not going to answer that. I'm just not. I'm not going to say that, by May 14, if so-and-so doesn't have two hits in a game, his [rear end] is out of there. I ain't doing that. If you played the game, then you know that you go through ...
So, if I'm not mistaken, it's OK to give an ultimatum to a supremely talented 24-year-old pitcher who's been bad, but not to a 37-year-old outfielder who's been awful and clearly has nothing left in the tank. He left him in his usual five slot today, dropping Bay down to sixth and batting Craig Wilson fourth. It's like the right answer is so obvious that he can't even see it.

So let's think Jim, why would people be asking you about Jeromy Burnitz in a non-stop manner? I don't venture too much into the hardcore stathead stuff on this blog because I like to keep the conversation open to everyone, not just college students whose finals are done and don't start work for a week and a half and have time to go into some hardcore sabermetrics, but today is different. This year a nifty little site call "Fan Graphs" has been launched. For every game every night, they plot out the win probability graph for every game. Each game starts out with each team having a 50/50 shot at winning, then as the game progresses the win probability shifts in one direction or the other until the game is over. For example, here's the graph of the Pirates' win over the D'Backs two nights ago. This leads to a stat called Win Probability Added (WPA) for the players. It's explained much better than I can do it in the article linked to, but for example, if a batter gets a hit that changes his teams' win probability from 80% to 95%, he's credited with +15% WPA while the pitcher gets a -15%. Similarly, if he makes an out in the same situation and the teams' WP drops from 80% to 60%, the batter gets a -20% WPA while the pitcher gets the +20%. You can probably guess where this is headed. After checking out the stats for all 30 teams, there's only 11 players with a WPA of under -100% at the plate (pitchers are for a different time), a reverse murder's row of sorts. At the very bottom of the majors, behind every single person who's played this year, is Jeromy Burnitz with a WPA of -173.6%. Besides the Twins' Rondell White (-163.4%) no one else is within 20% of Jeromy. That means that not only has Jeromy Burnitz statistically done more than any batter to help his team lose, but that Jim Tracy is stupid enough to let him keep playing despite how bad things are. The entire team chart of WPA can be found here, the evil Craig Wilson and Ryan Doumit lead the team in WPA while Jason Bay, who's being almost equally blamed with Burnitz of late (see today's aborted lineup, Bay is sixth while Burnitz is still 5th), is only at -17.5%. It's not a perfect stat, as Freddy Sanchez is near the bottom of the team on the list (I can only assume he made an out at an incredibly important juncture or something along those lines), but it's telling enough. It's time to pull the plug on Jeromy Burnitz, Jim. The only person that's looking bad at this point is you.

UPDATE (3:32)- A quick run through all of the team's boxscores on Fan Graphs (which include WPA for the players for each game) make me think that Sanchez's low number was accumulated by a bunch of 0-for-1's where that one at-bat was a pinch hit late in the game.