"Plausibility Index" & The Allegory of the Window

Our Spectometer stat to measure "Production"

This may be a very lame way of explaining what I'm getting at, or not. But I do realize now I should have found a picture of an open window.

Anyway ... imagine if you will ...

There is a little cannon, like the ones they use for practicing tennis or shooting hot dogs into the bleachers, and it shoots beanbags at the side of a house with a window.  (We wouldn't want to damage the house, so we use beanbags.)  The window is open, but the size of the opening is fixed.  The cannon has bad aim, and moves up and down and back and forth in a totally random manner.  For purposes of our thought experiment, the aim and randomness of the cannon cannot be changed, either.  The beanbags are fed into the cannon from a hopper.

But ... some percentage of the beanbags make it through the window and into the house.

Every minor league hitter will have beanbags fired at the window on his behalf, and every minor league hitter will have a "Goal" of obtaining a given number of beanbags inside the house.

At the outset, with each minor league hitter getting an identical hopper-full of beanbags (that is, plate appearances), it is equally plausible for each hitter to reach the Goal.  Some will and some won't, but that will be determined by the randomness of the cannon shots.  At the outset, no one hitter is more plausible than any other.

But then we change the ground rules in two steps.

First, each hitter takes a certain number of beanbags out of his hopper, and places them directly in the house.  These are walks, home runs and balls hit with authority (defined for measurement purposes as doubles + triples).  In other words, a number of beanbags equal to XBH + BB comes out of the hopper and into the house.  No cannon shot needed.  Each hitter will be that much closer to the Goal, in an amount equal to the number of XBH + BB.

Second, each hitter takes a certain number of beanbags out of his hopper, and throws them in the dumpster.  These are strikeouts.  These beanbags never get into the house, and can't be used to reach the Goal.

After these two events, the plausibility of each hitter reaching the Goal will be different.  Some will be very close to the Goal, and some won't.  Some will have reduced their chances by removing a load of beanbags from their hopper.  Hitters with similar-looking stats, might have very different plausibility because of very different strikeout rates.

After the two events, we've narrowed down our cannon shots to two of the six "plate outcomes."  Walks, home runs and balls hit with authority go right in the house; strikeouts go right in the dumpster.  The only "beanbags" left in the "hopper" represent "random-y" singles and "random-y" ball-in-play outs.

And ... we can calculate the conversion rate that each hitter needs to reach the Goal.  That is, once we know how many beanbags are in the house, how many are in the dumpster, and how many are left in the hopper, we can calculate the percentage of beanbags that need to make it through the window in order to reach the Goal.

That is what the stat Plausibility Index is.  The "Goal" is defined as an OPS of .890, which is the OPS that you get when you combine the threshold numbers that almost all successful major league hitters showed in the minors. 

Then:

  • given this hitter's actual rate of walks, home runs and extra-base hits [beanbags placed directly in the house], and
  • given this hitter's actual strikeout rate [beanbags placed in the dumpster] ...
  • what is the conversion rate of "random-y" singles [beanbags making it through the window] per "non-authoritative balls in play" [cannon shots out of the hopper] ...
  • necessary to produce an OPS of .890 [the Goal]?

A very low Plausibility Index indicates that the hitter needs very few "random-y singles" to reach .890.  The lowest for the Mariner system in 2012 was Mike Zunino's .112.  For guys who played the full season, it was Leon Landry at .242.  Once you get much over .350, then the likelihood of a hitter's actual success becomes less plausible (e.g., Jabari Blash at .373 and Ramon Morla at .355, despite decent-looking "regular" stats).

And, once we've set down that baseline, then we can consider that maybe some guys can "improve the aim of the cannon" or "expand the size of the window" (e.g., through speed).  But, when we do, we need to recognize that it is something other than producing by hitting the ball with authority, drawing walks and avoiding strikeouts.

 

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MtGrizzlyFrom mlbtr: "The Mariners, Mather explained, overshot their allotted player personnel budget by nearly $16MM in 2014. However, ownership had no complaints after seeing the team’s strong performance. Rather than asking how the $16MM would be recouped, they instead asked Mather how the team was going to get six more wins in 2015."1 hour 2 min ago
mojicianBe sure to tune into the shoutbox if you ever want to hear tomorrow's news today. :)6 hours 43 min ago
mojicianI'd like the record to reflect that I called a Giants World Series win on the night of the NL Wild Card game and right before the World Series started. My foresight is not quite 20-20, so I predicted a series win in five games. I want bragging rights and a bracket of some kind.6 hours 45 min ago
MtGrizzlyTo be fair, it's not as if Smoak had any success with his 'old' batting mechanics.16 hours 38 min ago
moethedogModern coaches would probably try to fix M. Ott or S. Oh!1 day 5 hours ago
moethedogChanging a hitter's stroke is more tricky than we wish to admit. There is a lot of investment by a player that has to be discarded, some can't do it. Many struggle because the stroke they have is their natural one, and the right one given their particular set of physical skills, make-up, vision, etc. Just telling a player to "go the other way" and assuming that fixes him is problematic, as is much "teaching" in that regard. PGA Tour-level players regularly "lose it" as they try to make mechanical fixes, some never get it back. What we think is purely mechanical is often bio-mechanical, meaning that a persons body optimally functions is a certain way. "Fixing" that may not be a fix. You older guys will remember Keith "Silk" Wilkes, the former UCLA and NBA player. He had a completely weird jump shot stroke that you would teach to nobody...but it worked.1 day 5 hours ago
moethedog"Fixing" it would have been disastrous. I think both Smoak and Ackley have been "fixed" to death. leaving them alone would have been a much better option. Some guys can be changed for the better. Some can't. Leave those guys alone. Hitting coaches (like swing coaches) are paid to coach, so they do. But I think in the majority of cases they would be better (at the MLB level) if they just said, "Swing a lighter bat" or "stand closer to the plate" or "take a day off" a lot more than they do. Not every problem can be "mechanically" fixed.1 day 5 hours ago
DaddyOI hope Smoak figures how to carve out a productive MLB career for himself. Meanwhile, he remains just one of a number of M's can't-miss hitting prospects who so far have sputtered and missed. A team can only pitch so well. Meanwhile they have to score some runs. Of course that sentiment is preaching to the choir.1 day 6 hours ago
SABR MattMcClendon's impulse to get Smoak to hit the opposite way and get on top of the ball was, (assuming this analysis is correct) the right thing to instruct. Smoak wanted to be a power hitter though. A power hitter's brain with a contact hitter's actual power because his swing was greedy and mechanically flawed.1 day 7 hours ago
SABR MattJust had an interesting discussion with a hitting instructor who used to intern with the Yankees the year I was there about Smoak. He thinks the Mariners fouled up Smoak's swing mechanics. He sees in Smoak's vids, a guy who starts the bat head too low in the zone and whose swing is too wristy, meaning when he wants to hit for power (gets a cookie pitch), he is going to have to swing up at the ball and the barrell will be at both an upper-cutting and a hinged (pullside) angle. If he squares it up with that funky contact plane, the ball will be a very high fly ball (subject to warning track outs)...and if he gets funny contact, he will ground out to the pull side. Hey...remind me again...what were Smoak's main out types? When he looked at scouting vids of early Smoak...he didn't start the bat head too low and his swing was way less wristy.1 day 7 hours ago
Bat571I suspect the Ms let Blake walk, though. If he's smart, he'll run to the D'backs and sign for whatever to get a chance to work with Dave Duncan. He's the classic Duncan project - big RH that doesn't overpower people and needs to learn how to pitch.2 days 47 min ago
Bat571Griz - I think Blake Beavan is still in the org. He was outrighted to Tacoma in August, and can become a free agent if not put back on the 40-man by a date that's pretty soon or signed to a new minor league deal, but the Ms still have a shred of the return left.2 days 50 min ago
DaddyOThis has nothing to do with current conversations, but I sure like Joe Panik. Not just his stats, but the way he plays the game. This guy is going to be a fixture for a LONG time.2 days 3 hours ago
misterjonezLove to see the decision made on Smoak. The M's seriously need to re-evaluate their offensive development program, but when it's time to cut bait it's time to cut bait. LoMo looks like a better bet, and neither one projects as a world beater. Here's hoping Smoak can turn into Adam Lind in Toronto; I wish him well.2 days 3 hours ago
moethedogSo here's the Lind attraction: Career vR he is .293-.349-.510! (Career vL he's .212-.257-.331) In a platoon situation at 1B or DH, he would be a terrific (and relatively cheap ($) add. Is Montero the vL bat to go with him? What is the cost of trading for Lind? But if you want to bring 115 starts of vR mashing, Lind is a guy to consider.2 days 4 hours ago
MtGrizzlyAll of the guys that came to Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade are now gone from the org.2 days 4 hours ago
SABR Mattand at least one of those catchers that did make the final three isn't even major league average defensively...I'll let you guys figure out which one. :)2 days 5 hours ago
mojicianSpeaking of rigged, what about Zunino's gold glove nomination? He caught the filthiest pitching staff in the American league, he cheated and stole caught strikes on a grand scale with his pitch framing, and then there are the tangibles: His AL Rankings: Second in catchers ERA, Fifth in baserunners nabbed, Third in fielding percentage, sixth in passed balls despite catching the magic changeup, the shuuto, and the Pax Curvanus, Second in games played. It is hard to come up with any measure of a catcher that Zunino isn't near the top of the leaderboard.2 days 6 hours ago
mojicianWhat about DJ making the AFL all star game with his .641 OPS and Kivlehan snubbed with his .913 OPS? This seems rigged.2 days 7 hours ago
mojicianSmoak's gone? Heh. That was a long and painful relationship. I hope he does well.2 days 8 hours ago