Many have postulated that Andrew Friedman's biggest task this off-season is rebuilding a Rays bullpen that has lost six members to free agency. While this is certainly a daunting task, I feel that Freidman has a bigger obligation to the Rays this off-season: to get the team back to fighting strength.
What do I mean by fighting strength? I literally mean how well the Rays handle themselves in a fight. Does anyone remember, long ago, in those glory days of 2008, when the Rays were the scrappy upstart that challenged the Yankees in spring training? The same team that came together in times of crisis to assault Coco Crisp. This is where the Rays must get back to if they want to succeed in 2011.
But, Jones, you ask, how can we quantify battle readiness or 'scrappiness'? Well, until now we couldn't, but I've been crunching the numbers for the last three--maybe even four--hours, and I've come up with a bevy of complex proprietary statistics to evaluate the Rays ability to literally crush their opponents.
SCRAP - A good sabermetric starting point to evaluate battle strength, SCRAP stands for "Sidewinding Crazy Radical-Ass Punches." SCRAP is a complex ratio that involves punch%, hit%, punch speed, punch force, and luck (dragon) while discounting stadium effects such as punching surface, and Legally-Insane Fans.
SCRAP is an improvement on ODA (Opponents Damage Analysis) and FIP (Force Independent Punching) because it only demonstrates the punches thrown by the specific player, not any general way the opposing player got hurt.
More SCRAP, and even more complicated (i.e. badass) stats after the jump.
With Expected SCRAP (xSCRAP) and Weighted Scrap (wSCRAP) we can see learn even more about the Rays ability to throw down. wSCRAP quantifies the type of punch--a haymaker is worth 3.8 times more than a jab-- but also magnifies the negative effects of a missed punch.
For example: James Shields' whiff of Crisp in 2008 dropped his wSCRAP from 3.28 to 1.49 in one swing of the fist. As you can see, big punches make a big difference.
STFD - This is basically the ability to put an opposing player in their place, be it physically or mentally. STFD stands for "Sit The Fellow Down", and there is a direct correlation between STFD and Opponents Urinated Trousers% (OUT%).
MFIKY - This statistic stands for: "My Friends, I Know You." An example of MFIKY is feeling relaxed enough after a game to defiantly un-tuck your jersey in front of a stadium full of people. There is a direct correlation between MFIKY and Opponents Shame% (OPS%).
GRIT: This may be the most important sabermetric stat to date. GRIT stands for "Gomes Raging In Trop." From 2003 through 2008 the Rays GRIT was a major league leading 6.90. This accounted for all the times Jonny Gomes went into GomesRage TM .
What GomesRage might look like:
After letting Gomes walk to the NL in 2009, the Rays GRIT effectively dropped to zero (actually, their xGRIT was 0.420 in the event of a Rays-Reds World Series).
xGRIT for 2011 was looking the same until the Rays traded full-o-heart Jason Bartlett to the Padres for a few meaningless scrubs and one gritty player named... Brandon Gomes.
As with all advanced analysis such as this, there is a part of the game that cannot be quantified. This is where scouting comes into play. I briefly played ball with Gomes our freshman year at Tulane. While his appearance and size are lacking in comparison to Jonny Gomes, I feel Brandon has the intangibles which allow GomesRage to appear. My roommate also recalls that Gomes would occasionally go into GomesRage upon receiving a less than satisfactory grade in Accounting 101. My girlfriend says she "knew" Brandon Gomes freshman year--and I have thus concluded that scouting is meaningless. Moving on...
As of today, the Rays 2011 xGRIT stands at 1.27 which some might see as a bit of a long shot, but remember that GomesRage doesn't have to occur on the playing field, all he needs to do is be in the Trop for the metamorphosis to occur.
But, to get to the essence of what the Rays need in 2011, we need to dig a little deeper. I started with BRA (Brutal Rage Average), but, like most men, found BRA to be difficult to handle. I decided to use a more modern statistic: Brutal Rage Average for Wins and Losses (BRAWL) and go for some better results.
BRAWL is one of the best stats there is, because if having a literally kick-ass team doesn't help you win, you might as well be playing hockey. Unfortunately, to the average human, BRAWL is damn near indecipherable. But, fear not, baby birds, I understand that y'all don't hold a candle to me in terms of intelligence, so I made a stat easier for you to understand: BRAWLFENSE (Brutal Rage Average for Wins and Losses For Even Non-Saber Enthusiasts).
BRAWLFENSE is comprised of five key components: SCRAP, GRIT, STFD, MFIKY, and Neck Tattoo% (NTatt%). It basically tells us how the Rays will perform on the field based on their ass-kicking abilities.
What It All Means
What all this complex data boils down to is that the Rays BRAWLFENSE took a major hit this offseason. The losses of Grant Balfour, Rafael Soriano, and Carl Crawford plummeted the Rays xBRAWLFENSE because of drops in STFD, MFIKY, and NTatt%, respectively. The trade of Matt Garza caused a lower total SCRAP thanks to a heavier weight being put on James Shields paltry numbers.
The Red Sox 2010 BRAWLFENSE was unsustainably low due to injuries to key SCRAPpy players. Expect them to rebound in 2011.
Andrew Friedman clearly saw what had to be done when he signed Kyle Farnsworth on Thursday. Many have opined that Farnsworth is a Grant Balfour clone, and in terms of STFD, they're pretty close. While Balfour has been more productive over the last three years with a STFD of 3.14, Farnsworth has the higher career STFD and actually projects for a higher xSTFD (4.20) in 2011 due to the fact that he actually "Sits The Fellows Down" via body slam.
In Beyond the Box Score's "If They Fought" Tournament, Farnsworth came in as the number one seed, but lost in a shocking upset to Ryan Howard in the first round. Many accusations of Philly fans stuffing the ballot box were thrown about, but no investigation was ever conducted. When asked to comment, Steve Slowinski, a BtB contributor had this to say:
No comment. Not to say that we have anything to hide or anything like that, because truly, we'd tell you if we could... NOT that there's anything we could tell you, even if we were allowed. *Ah hem* I mean, that "no comment" is a completely innocent "no comment", since there's absolutely nothing to tell. Zip, zilch, nada. There is absolutely nothing to tell about Ryan Howard's bribery. .... DAMN!
The aforementioned Brandon Gomes raises the Rays GRIT to among the highest in the American League, even if he projects to spend most, if not all, of his time in the minors. I very much hope that while being shown around the Trop during a Rays-Yanks series, Brandon Gomes accidentally stumbles into the Yankees locker room and Derek Jeter steps on his foot. Let. The. Gomes. Rage. BEGIN!
What Else the Rays Can Do:
The Rays have a few needs on the field and in the ring and there are a few places that they overlap.
Signing Vladimir Guerrero would improve the Rays SCRAP considerably. Just like with the bat, Guerrero swings his fists at everything. While Guerrero's punch force has decreased over the years, his hit% and punch speed have remained at levels that rival the best in the league. Vlad the Impaler would be a better signing than Manny Ramirez because of Manny's notoriously low SCRAP. During the Rays-Sox brawl in '08 Manny was nowhere near the epicenter of the action then got into an altercation with his own teammate and left in the fourth inning. (-2.67 SCRAP)
Perhaps the best remaining free agent the Rays can sign this off-season is Jon Rauch. Rauch could bring the Rays close to their '08 BRAWLFENSE on NTatt% alone, not to mention bumps in SCRAP and STFD. Standing at 6'11", Rauch has one of the most concrete BRAWLFENSE resumes out there, coming in second in Beyond the Box Score's "If They Fought" tournament last May. Who'd Rauch lose to, you ask? That would be none other than Jonny Gomes, who, let's face it, is less of a ballplayer and more of a God. If Kevin Youkilis is the Greek God of Walks, then Jonny Gomes is a nuclear bomb filled with Grilled Stuft Burritos wrapped in bacon. (Trust me, that's better.)
Despite the losses of Soriano, Crawford, Garza, and Balfour, the Rays should improve their BRAWLFENSE this year thanks to the additions of Farnsworth, Gomes, and--assuming they produce at least replacement level BRAWL--whatever other players are added before Spring Training.
Unfortunately, both the Yankees and Red Sox have upped their BRAWLFENSE as well, thanks mainly to the additions of former Rays Soriano and Crawford. The AL East projects to be the BRAWLerist division this year, narrowly edging out the NL Central (thanks to the Reds astronomically high GomesRage).
Here are the projections for xBRAWLFENSE for the 2011 season:
So, as you can see, these numbers suggest that with a few key signings (specifically Jon Rauch's neck tattoo) the Rays can once again reach the summit of BRAWL in 2011. While not the team of 2008, this 2011 Rays squad should kick some serious ass.
And, this has to be right because, you know, the numbers never lie.