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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Free Agent Analysis CF Franklin Gutierrez: New Tools for Big Data and Old Fashion Park Factors

The New Tool: Online Spray Charts for Players Comparisons/Parks/Yearly

Recent technology is great. New ways are being created and adapted daily to handle and analyze Big Data. For baseball, this is highly important. As it is at the heart of understanding who is able to do what on a field which is now upwards of a $200+ million decision for the elite free agent players. For perspective: the Anaheim Angels (LA) were bought for under $200 million barely a decade ago. Now those Angels have Albert Pujols, one of those $200 million dollar investments on their books for a decade.

That said, Fangraphs (where the tool below was found), Brooks Baseball, Baseball America, Baseball-Reference, Cot's Contracts, MLBTraderumors, and quite a few others provide the backbone of substantial fan-based research. All one has to do is seek and ye shall find. (There is even a Baseball Bible.)

So, analysis has to be done in a variety of ways, and represented in ways people can wrap their brains around. Which, for the analysts, requires more pictures, maybe less numbers, for some decision makers. (All people have their unique tendencies on how they like 'Data': some like verbal convincing or appealing word choices, some visual and graphic representation, while some are more about the emotive/feeling, or, if you will, the gut/visceral. Connecting across the spectrum is the only way to be more inclusive. Yet, this is difficult unless you know your crowd/audience.)

But back to baseball.

Franklin Gutierrez 2012-2013 Long Ball Spray Charts

The above shows all balls Gutierrez hit over 300 feet at home (left) and away (right). Playing in Seattle, he is at a negative disadvantage on hitting the long ball as the park is pitcher friendly (table below). As time has worn on, he is decidedly a pull hitter on all balls. Typically many older guys fall into a few categories: becoming more pull-happy; more able to go the other way, as they are in more control and experienced on the pitching they see; or, increasingly becoming unable to catch up with good heat, or nasty pitches and either missing them or fouling them off even when in the zone.

From Brooks Baseball Landing Page for Gutierrez:
Against All Fastballs (480 seen), he has had an exceptionally poor eye (0.67 d'; 63% swing rate at pitches in the zone vs. 37% swing rate at pitches out of the zone) and a steady approach at the plate (0.01 c) with an above average likelihood to swing and miss (21% whiff/swing).

Against Breaking Pitches (206 seen), he has had a league average eye (0.80 d'; 62% swing rate at pitches in the zone vs. 31% swing rate at pitches out of the zone) and a steady approach at the plate (0.09 c) with an exceptionally high likelihood to swing and miss (47% whiff/swing).

Against Offspeed Pitches (77 seen), he has had a poor eye (0.77 d'; 71% swing rate at pitches in the zone vs. 41% swing rate at pitches out of the zone) and a steady approach at the plate (-0.17 c) with an above average likelihood to swing and miss (39% whiff/swing). 

2013 Ball Park Factors (Bottom 5, courtesy of Rotogrinders)

PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates 0.580 0.907 1.007 0.950 0.677 0.89 0.91
Marlins Park Miami Marlins 0.715 1.072 1.030 1.189 1.383 0.95 0.91
AT&T Park San Francisco Giants 0.741 0.850 0.951 0.989 1.914 0.99 0.94
Safeco Field Seattle Mariners 0.781 0.921 0.989 1.070 0.661 0.94 0.95
O.co Coliseum Oakland Athletics 0.801 0.910 0.979 1.089 1.400 0.90 0.98

Gutierrez is now a dead pull guy in a bad park for home run generation. But 2013, offered him hope as the Seattle's Safeco Field walls were slightly moved in to increase home runs. A total of 88 dingers were seen at Safeco, as the Mariners (from Baseball Reference), did not enjoy the park that much:

B-R 2013 Seattle Mariners  

(Over 100 favors batters, under 100 favors pitchers) 
Multi-year: Batting - 92, Pitching - 92; One-year: Batting - 97, Pitching - 98

So what value does The Death to Flying Things have?
He's a platoon guy against lefties that can plausibly hit soft tossing right handers as the slugging graph below reflects and this Brooks Baseball link will further bare out for RHP woes from 2011-2013.

Guiterrez, you pair in a platoon with a lefty hitter that cannot face lefties. The Death to Flying Things has a deadly problem against right-handed pitching. Only soft tossing righties who live on only cutters and curves are fine. Gas. Sinker/sliders put the Gut on the bench.  In 2013, Seattle attempted this usage best they seemingly could as both May and July were totally lost due to injury.

If one can hope for optimal health, Gutierrez plays against 30-40 LHP starters, Pinch hits against lefties, plays against those rare righties without gas or wicked sliders, so he can marginally be effective against that, and one would hope as a fielding substitute in RF. Get around 225-250PAs.

Optimally you pair him with Nate Schierholtz if you are the Cubs. Who can handle the other 450-500PAs, optimally. Here's why:

So you have the ideal match up of guys that have flaws but together could be a slugging force in Wrigley, where it plays to Gutierrez natural pull tendencies on windy days. Gutierrez is the more part-time player, likely at best a .5-1.0 WAR player, if you get optimal results. Scheirholtz is the 1.0 to 2.0 type of player.

Together, it works for the salary it will entail to have both.
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