Tuesday, September 17, 2013

GAPPER: The Process

The process began in November or December of 2008. I found myself to have a lot of time on my hands and needed to apply myself to something to keep my brain stimulated, to keep me from going nuts.

It's a long, winding road to get from where I started to where I am but I'm going to try to keep this to short and to the point. Much of my time has been spent with data entry and manual analysis. As I got better with Excel, I got a lot more usable information from what I had compiled. I analyzed everything. Minor League stats, college stats, some MLB stats. I analyzed what types of players get drafted highly, get big bonuses, make it to the majors quickly or slowly; what types of players move from position to a different position. The core of my work was to figure out how likely any stat was to lead me to finding a major leaguer. I needed more data, always more. Most of my work was based on a combination of stats from major leaguers and it didn't include minor leaguers, those that failed to reach the ultimate goal. It didn't give me much strong, useful data other than what made the best MLB players. It helped some and in hindsight actually turned out to be fairly accurate after I added in the players that failed. This made me realize that there are many players in the upper minors who could be useful MLB players but just don't get the opportunity..but I'm getting off track.

I got ahold of more good data. I analyzed it every way I could and came up with some good formulas that represent liklihood of a player reaching the majors. I took these numbers and assigned a point system that represented the correlation to MLB success and GAPPER was born. This happened in five years of real time. I have spent thousands of hours doing this and I have an understanding of baseball I never thought I would have. It has given me a new respect for those who play it and run it. What I'm doing could be considered disrespectful to some, just slapping a number or a value on someone, but it is a lot more than that. I respect them, I just want to understand their skills and how they can help a team, even if it is in the minors. 

GAPPER is based on counting stats. It is made up of skills. Hitting, Power, Speed, BB, K, IP, K, BB, H, HRA and many others. It is the basis of how I analyze players, assign percentages and values.

What I have done is take MiLB data from 1990-2012 and filtered out all the players that made it to the majors. I took the average and standard deviation of each skill for these players to define a benchmark. Using the 2-8 scale (with occasional off-scale values) I labeled each skill of each player in the minors.

After more and more analysis, I have found out that there are four values that acutally matter for hitters. Age, hitting, power and speed. For pitchers, age matters less but there are three values that matter beyond that. Pitching, like logging innings but this is less valuable, K rate and BB rate. The percentages are more important that total number and when having a seperate value for innings, it gives a person perspective on what they have actually accomplished. Other things are more valuable to seperate the best players and there are always anomalies but these are the core values that matter. Everything is about context as well. Players with plus power in the California league aren't as impressive. It still shows potential, just not as definitive.

To group players and analyze them in the most efficient way, I assigned one of 27 values to every player and every pitcher. The values are either plus, average or below average along with age. For example, phenomenal hitter will be a 19PPP, which means he is a plus hitter, plus power and plus speed. This is the most elite player possible but there are still players that don't work out from this group, it's just much less likely. To me, this is the ideal thumbnail of a player. Players that are, say, 22AAA are pretty typical. They are good prospects but don't have a standout tool. That is where the GAPPER score and the percentage analysis help define where a player fits in this spectrum. It shows how similar players have progressed and how they worked out, if they worked out.

So, in the end, I have a grade (such as 23PAA), a GAPPER score, say 237.4, a percent success rate and a Value derived from this, say 70.0 percent and a value of 13.69 million. This for example is Michael Choice. This means if he was on the open market, a team should value him at about $14 million dollars considering his future potential production and his risk rate. I can look at former prospects that scored similarly and find successes and failures. We can't be sure which he will be, but the odds are good. Alberto Callaspo, David Lough, Jason Donald and Brandon Phillips have all scored similarly in the past. On the other hand, so did Noochie Varner...

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