Sunday, August 27, 2006

MLB Projections

This post attempts to erase any doubt about the effectiveness of Daisuke Matsuzaka in the Major Leagues. It is intended particulary for those skeptics that have never seen the ace pitch a single game, but are willing to write him off for the big money he will cost, and level of competition he has faced in his career. There is a method to my scouting and analysis here at Matsuzaka Watch. It is born in part from Sabermetrics, as applied by Jim Albright of Baseball Guru.

Albright is a very bright guy. He's dedicated himself to applying SABR analysis to Japanese baseball, with a very limited statistical set and a lot of creativity. His work is imperfect, but highly effective. There is clearly some margin of error, but any differences in projections is purely due to the relatively rough data set and inevitable outside factors that affect cross-cultural adjustments and lifestyle changes. His work on predicting Japan to MLB production has been very interesting and for the most part has been refined to a very respectable level. You can read it for yourself.

Here, I will attempt to demonstrate the projection for Matsuzaka in a similar way. There are a couple of important differences. I will use the formulas that Albright has developed, but instead of a generic prediction I will use the exact data set to project Matsuzaka's record on the Yankees in 2005 and 2006. This blog is intended to inform all fans about the Japanese ace, but it is first a spin-off of my Yankee blog Canyon of Heroes, and as such will continue to be devoted to bringing Matsuzaka to New York. Apologies to the good fans of other clubs. This information will be valuable to all of you too. Follow me....

Albright has used a large cross section of data for players crossing the ocean to play in both NPB and MLB and has found some important ratios to demonstrate the differences in performance in the categories of hits, home runs, walks, and strikeouts. This data is useful in projecting Component ERA, which can be in turn extrapolated to Pythagorean Expectations on wins and losses. You can read the info in Albright's article, and the wikipedia listings for the other metrics, if you don't understand them but want to learn. Otherwise, just try to catch the general sense of this.

Matsuzaka's 2005 statistics for Seibu can be translated to MLB equivalents using the aformentioned ratios, and then an ERAC is created. Using the Yankees 2005 Pythagorean data, and projecting Matsuzaka's participation in their ballgames over 215 innings, I came up with these results (1 decision for each 9 innings pitched):

19-5 record
28 GS
215 IP
185 Hits
16 HR
63 BB
200 K
2.74 ERA
1.154 WHIP
8.37 K/9
3.18 K/BB

That's Cy Young material. In the American League in 2005, those stats would rank Matsuzaka thus:

Wins (2nd)
W-L% (1st)
ERA (1st)
WHIP (3rd)
K/9 (4th)
Ks (3rd)

I projected the current 2006 season for Matsuzaka out to the expected 25 games pitched, and adjusted the current statistical pace he's on to final numbers. I subsequently converted those numbers to MLB equivalents, and put Daisuke in the context of the 2006 Yankees (1 decision for each 9 innings pitched).

25 GS
187 IP
156 Hits
21 HR
39 BB
181 K
2.52 ERA
1.043 WHIP
8.71 K/9
4.64 K/BB

Again, Cy Young candidate. The 2006 season is still in progress so this is a rough comparison and analysis, but it's not a stretch to put Daisuke among the league leaders in virtually every major category again. Remember, this data has been calculated according to the necessary "dumbing down" factors that accurately predicted the MLB projections for most of the players who have made the leap across the Pacific, give or take a few hundredths of a point here or there, and a few tummy aches from the oilier Western food and travel routine.

If you want to "dumb down" the stats even further because you're a pessimist, there's still room to make Matsuzaka a top frontline pitcher on any club in the Majors. Give him a 3.50 ERA and you've totally blown metrics and established data out of the water in favor of doubt, and you still have one of the best pitchers in the AL. There's no way around it. He's going to be a monster, and should command top dollar at 26 years old.


At 3:37 PM, Anonymous ChrisV82 said...

Seems like Matsuzaka could be a real star here, and he's 2 years younger than Zito.

I still retain a little bit of skepticism with Matsuzaka, even with the more accurate statistical predictions. I mean, the Detroit Tigers are 25th in OBP and they still have the best record (good pitching, I guess). A team with that low of an OBP probably shouldn't own the best record, and there's a possibility Matsuzaka could go against expectations. There's no guarantee he'll succeed, but then again, that's true for anyone.

The one thing going to Matsuzaka going to the Yankees is the New York purse size. Plus, doesn't Cashman have a statistical analyst to whisper good thoughts into his ear? Maybe Matsui will do a little campaigning.

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Mike Plugh said...

Cashman is way ahead of everyone in baseball on this.

The hiring of Soichi Kida was Cashman at work. The full court press is on and we're going to be right then when all is said and done. The only question about whether the kid is in pinstripes next year or not, is "will anyone outbid us with STUPID money?"

At 5:16 AM, Blogger srock said...

I think this guy will be the real deal in the Major's but I hope it isn't with the damn Yankee's. Does he realize every baseball fan not in New York hates the Yankee's? I'm hoping Peter "More money the God" Angelos gets out his fat wallet and makes good on his promise to spend on free agents this year. Matsuzaka would look good pitching in Baltimore ya' think?

At 6:19 AM, Blogger Joe said...

Matsuzaka is a guy who has been dominant in a league that plays on the other side of the world. I would just try to imagine the worst stats he could have and still be worth something. If he has an ERA under 4.00 and pitches a full season, say, 32 starts, he should win at least 15 games if he's playing on a good team. Plus, he pitched against the U.S. in the WBC at Angel Stadium, so it isn't like it will be a completely new experience for him.

At 5:10 AM, Blogger Jeetan Sareen said...

I was at that game (Japan vs. USA), he dominated!

At 4:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it when people blatantly lie. Matsuzaka never pitched against TEAM USA. So, one of you "saw" something that never existed and two, yes, pitching against a team of Americans will be new to him.

At 4:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's amazing how people can lie and not expect to get caught. Jeetan, explain to us how you were at a game where Matsuzaka pitched against the US? When, in fact, Matsuzaka never did.

No 2, since he never pitched against TEAM USA, pitching against MLB players will be NEW to him.

At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matsuzaka could be as good for the Red Sox as Wang has been for the Yankees- a young 20 game winner and leader of the staff-- but he still will need to find a way to overcome the tendency demonstrated over many seasons of Boston to play far below the level of its talent. A case can be made that the Yankees added to Wang's success with their big offense and adequate defense. A case can also be made that a better defensive club would have produced much better numbers for Wang--but not necessarily as many wins. The problem with SABR is that it reflects a somewhat typical misunderstaning of MLB- the only important stat is in the win column.

At 11:59 PM, Blogger Jeetan said...

Aye, you are right, my mistake. It was some other pitcher.

I'm sure you felt real cool calling me a liar though. That was big of you.

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