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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Arthur: Buster Posey Has Quietly Become A Lock For Cooperstown

The Giants’ record might make Posey easy to overlook, but his combination of hitting and defense makes him almost a lock to one day join the Hall. In fact, despite being only 30 years old, Posey might already have a Hall of Fame résumé if he retired today.

538’s baseball coverage hasn’t been great, has it?

Baldrick Posted: August 17, 2017 at 03:57 PM | 114 comment(s)
  Beats: buster posey, fivethirtyeight, hall of fame

Friday, August 11, 2017

FiveThirtyEight: Baseball’s ‘Hot Hand’ Is Real

Every starting pitcher in our data shows a noticeable pattern of switching between hot and cold states.5 Some pitchers’ streakiness manifests in a pronounced downside when they’re cold, like what happens to Texas Rangers lefty Cole Hamels. When he’s on, Hamels’ fastball is just a tick faster than average for him. But when he’s off, he loses about two and a half miles per hour compared to his average fastball. The impact is massive: That almost 4 mph difference in heat translates to a 1.03-run difference in projected runs allowed per nine. If you apply those numbers to Hamels’ 2016 season, he had ace-level stats when hot (3.41 RA/9, 18th among 73 qualified starters), and mediocre ones when off (4.44 RA/9, 44th).

What’s more, the differences in Hamels’ performance seem to be steady from year to year. Running the same analysis on his 2014 and 2015 seasons shows that Hamels always fluctuates between about 2.5 mph down when cold and 1 mph up when hot. He’s not alone: Players who appeared in all three seasons we studied tended to show the same hot and cold effects from year to year, suggesting that we picked up on some of each pitcher’s true characteristics rather than just noise.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 11, 2017 at 02:03 PM | 20 comment(s)
  Beats: fivethirtyeight, hot hand

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Dodgers Have A Real Chance To Break The All-Time Wins Record

According to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo model, which simulates the remainder of the season using power ratings and each team’s probability of winning every game, the Dodgers are on pace to win 112 games. But that’s just their average outcome — in some simulations they win more, and in some they win less. In a shade over 20 percent of sims, they win at least 116 games, which would tie the all-time mark. And 13.5 percent of the time, they finish the season with at least 117 victories, setting a new single-season record for greatness.

Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: August 07, 2017 at 01:57 PM | 76 comment(s)
  Beats: dodgers, fivethirtyeight

Friday, July 21, 2017

Baseball’s Best Teams Are Too Damn Good

As we approach the July 31 trade deadline, this is more than just an academic curiosity. A team’s willingness to pony up prospects for a better shot at the World Series is directly tied to how much good it thinks a trade will do. In a wide-open season, even teams outside the top tier of contenders could be convinced to roll the dice on an upgrade — particularly with the expanded wild-card format. But the stronger the top teams are, the less incentive teams on the periphery have to make a championship push. According to Elo, we haven’t seen a stronger crop of elite teams in the expansion era than this season’s top six.1

As recently as a few years ago, you could have lamented the lack of dominant teams at the top of the major leagues. At this same time in 2015, for instance, the leading Elo teams were among the weakest at their slots in the expansion era. But baseball’s era of parity seems to be officially over, with the game moving back toward imbalance. While a top-heavy MLB might never look like its basketball equivalent,2 it’s still going to be tougher than usual for aspiring contenders to break through — a fact you can bet every GM is keenly aware of in the lead-up to the deadline.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 21, 2017 at 05:40 PM | 73 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, dodgers, fivethirtyeight, parity

Thursday, July 20, 2017

America Has Spoken: The Yankees Are The Worst

That’s according to a FiveThirtyEight-commissioned SurveyMonkey Audience poll of 989 self-described baseball fans, conducted June 30 to July 8.1 The poll does provide the Yankees with one talking point: They received more votes as people’s favorite team than any other franchise. But a deeper look at the results reveals that the Cubs are a much better fit for the title of America’s best-liked team (if such a thing even exists)....

Sixty-seven percent of baseball fans nationally had a favorable view of the Cubs, while just 14 percent had an unfavorable view. Amazingly, this gave the Cubs the highest favorable rating in the poll in addition to a tie with the Colorado Rockies for the lowest unfavorable rating. In every region of the country, the Cubs had a favorable rating of above 60 percent and an unfavorable rating of 20 percent or less. The Cardinals (at +31 percentage points) were a distant second to the Cubs (at +53 percentage points) when it came to net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating).

The Yankees are an entirely different story. While a fairly high 44 percent of fans have a favorable view of the Yankees, they are the only team in the country for which more fans hold an unfavorable view (48 percent) than favorable view. (For the sake of context, no other team has an unfavorable rating above 35 percent.) Yankee fans will be particularly stung by the fact that more fans have a favorable view of the rival Red Sox (56 percent) than the Yankees.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 20, 2017 at 05:37 PM | 48 comment(s)
  Beats: fivethirtyeight, poll, yankees

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In MLB’s New Home Run Era, It’s The Baseballs That Are Juicing

But it turns out there was an experiment in progress under our noses all along. Baseball’s camera- and radar-tracking technologies measure the speed of the ball shortly after the pitcher releases it and then again when it crosses the plate. By examining how much speed it loses between those two locations, we can calculate its air resistance (as measured by drag coefficient). For example, the average pitch loses about 7.4 mph on its way to the plate. The exact amount of velocity lost depends on the thickness of the air (which varies with temperature, weather and elevation), but a high-drag ball tends to lose about 8.7 mph on the way to the plate, while a slicker ball would lose only 6.5 mph.

With some help from baseball physicist Alan Nathan, I used those measurements to estimate the air resistance on the ball in each full month of MLB action since 2013, accounting for weather and altitude. If the ball has a lower drag coefficient, it ought to lead to longer fly balls and more dingers. Sure enough, you can see a strong correlation between the drag coefficient and the rate of home runs per fly ball in a given month1:

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 28, 2017 at 04:24 PM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: fivethirtyeight, home run spike, juiced baseballs

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

FiveThirtyEight: Who Needs A DH? The NL Is Outhitting The AL, Somehow

Entering play on Tuesday, the National League hitters — including the pitchers — had a .739 on-base plus slugging percentage compared with .735 for the American League. This is remarkable considering the NL’s OPS includes 1,590 plate appearances by pitchers whereas AL pitchers have batted just 125 times. Only once in history has the NL outhit the AL across a full season, in 1976 — and that year it was a virtual dead heat (.6812 OPS to .6809). The average advantage for the AL has been 22 OPS points, with a high of 57 in 1996. And the push for hitting equality appears to be the trend as the NL finished last year just 10 points worse in OPS than the AL, the sixth-smallest differential over a full season in the designated hitter era.

This is not the result of pitchers hitting better, either. In fact, pitchers are particularly terrible this season at the plate, with a .324 OPS in the first two months. The culprit is more likely located in left field.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 31, 2017 at 12:16 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: fivethirtyeight, offense

Friday, May 26, 2017

FiveThirtyEight: Pitchers Are Slowing Down To Speed Up

Despite consternation from the commissioner and rule changes to speed up the game, baseball has never been slower than it is right now.1 Even in the short time since last season, the average delay between pitches has jumped a full second. It’s all part of a decadelong trend toward more sluggish play, and there’s an alarming reason baseball’s pace problem is likely to get even worse going forward: Slowing down helps pitchers throw faster.

Compared with 2007, the average MLB pitcher now holds the ball a full two seconds longer between consecutive pitches. This leisurely behavior has helped drag the average game out to a full three hours, five minutes — roughly 10 minutes longer than it was two years ago. Some have argued that the pace of the game isn’t a problem, but MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has announced that he intends to make baseball faster “for the benefit of the game and the fans.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 26, 2017 at 12:35 AM | 33 comment(s)
  Beats: fivethirtyeight, pace of play

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Fly Ball Revolution Is Hurting As Many Batters As It’s Helped

So there is definitely a fly-ball revolution underway in baseball. But that revolution is not without its discontents. Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto recently disparaged the trend towards fly-ball hitting in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer. “I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things,” Votto said, as quoted in the Enquirer.

Votto is right; being a more productive hitter really isn’t as simple as “elevate to celebrate.” Over the last three years, just as many hitters have suffered by increasing their fly-ball rate as have benefited. Here’s a chart showing each hitter’s change in fly-ball rate from the previous year, in comparison with his change in weighted On-Base Average (wOBA).

Among players who increased their fly-ball rate, it was almost exactly a toss-up as to whether their wOBA would get better or worse.1 Similarly, players who decreased their fly-ball rate had about a 50/50 split of improving and worsening wOBAs. Overall, the correlation between a batter’s changing fly ball rate and his subsequent change in production is nonexistent. That same lack of correlation holds if you use the more advanced metrics (such as launch angle) tracked by MLB’s StatCast system.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 16, 2017 at 05:04 PM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: fivethirtyeight, flyball revolution

Friday, May 05, 2017

Our 2017 Goose-Egg Reliever Rankings Are Here

But as Ben Lindbergh recently documented over at The Ringer, the hegemony of the save may have loosened just slightly. So far this year, the Cleveland Indians’ Andrew Miller — who might be the American League’s best reliever — has made five appearances that stretched over multiple innings. Miller, who has yet to allow a run on the season, doesn’t have any saves. But he does have 10 goose eggs, tying him for third in baseball. (All statistics in this article are accurate through the end of May 4.)

Even more encouraging is the case of the Astros’ Chris Devenski. He has pitched a Gossage-like 18.1 innings over eight appearances so far this year. (In 1975, when Gossage set the single-season record with 82 goose eggs, he pitched 141.2 innings over 62 appearances.) Devenski has only one save, but he has 10 goose eggs. With an exceptional ratio of 34 strikeouts against just two walks on the season, he has grown more comfortable with his multi-inning role. If the Astros keep moving him up their pecking order — Devenski has been used in some high-leverage situations so far, but also some medium-leverage ones — he’ll be a candidate to finish with 50 or even 60 goose eggs. No pitcher has reached the 60 goose-egg benchmark since Scot Shields in 2005.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 05, 2017 at 10:32 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: fivethirtyeight, goose eggs, relievers

 

 

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