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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Newsweek: Can Baseball Get More Interesting to Watch With Big Data?

I love stats. I think the broadcasting of baseball games could be much better and more interesting than it currently is. This nonetheless doesn’t describe anything I have the slightest desire to see. But, you tell me.

h/t Sean Lahman, known to data some data in his day

The top task for Major League Baseball’s incoming commissioner, Rob Manfred, is to try to make a lullaby-paced sport that takes three hours per game relevant to the Snapchat generation. This season the league began installing a phalanx of gadgets and systems that will collect and analyze data about every sliver of action in every game, clearly betting that data will add a Twilight Zone-like dimension to baseball that no one can yet see. Claudio Silva, the scientist MLB hired to help make sense of the data, is authoring an academic paper titled “Baseball 4D.” Claudio Silva, the scientist MLB hired to help make sense of the data, is authoring an academic paper titled “Baseball 4D.”...

The goal, Silva says, is to have so much information, a game could be re-created completely by using data.

Baseball would come to exist in an entirely digital form, which could be manipulated by fans to perhaps create new games. You might be able to tap into a previously played baseball game and create a new game by taking charge of calling the pitches: curve, strike, changeup. Then watch as a real-time, realistic version of the game unfolds as you play. Or maybe you could do that through Google Glass while at a live game: Call a different pitch and see what might have happened in the live at-bat you just witnessed…

This could be baseball’s comeback… Or perhaps data will uplift a new sport, the way TV ushered in the NFL… Expect intense data to create a new kind of sports excitement—less visceral, more analytical—that translates a non-TV event into a perfect smartphone event. This could turn the Tour de France into a global obsession, and make bike racing as addictive as Candy Crush.

All this is still a great unknown. What is clear is that we’ve reached a new dividing line in sports. Newspapers, radio, TV, data. We are now in a new era that is waiting for some sport to claim it. MLB is stepping up to the plate. Let’s see whether it whiffs or hits one out of the park.

The District Attorney Posted: September 02, 2014 at 01:54 PM | 15 comment(s)
  Beats: media, sabermetrics, television

Doc Daugherty: Aroldis Chapman not necessary for Reds

Hell, even Doc Sportello is right once in a while (Fabian Fazzo).

Not that I dislike Aroldis Chapman. I like a good strikeout as much as the next guy. I think it’s great every time he throws a pitch 100 mph, every broadcaster has to tell us about it. It’s cool when he runs in from the bullpen and the GASP crowd cheers. His role in feeding pizza to the masses cannot not be underestimated.

But the fact is, Chapman is useful here, not necessary.

Should we list the reasons again, kids?

Let’s start with the fact that 14 pitchers in MLB have more saves than his 29. Including Addison Reed (Diamondbacks, 57-80) and Glen Perkins (Minnesota, 60-77). Yep, I know Chappy started the year on the DL. But the larger point remains, a great closer on a mediocre-at-best team is like a diamond ring on a chimp’s finger.

Again: Closers are beholden to situations. Specific situations. Somewhere in the Manager’s Manual For Running Games is this edict:

A manager may not use his “closer’’ unless his team is ahead by at least one run, but no more than 3; the game is not in the final inning, preferably the start of the final inning. Managers who employ a “closer’’ in other situations risk being booted from The Order of The Book and subjected to a lifetime of second guessing.

If BPrice had truly wanted to break the mold and burn The Book, he’d have used his best reliever in the most important situations. Hint: They ain’t always the start of the 9th, with the bases clean.

That would have ensured Chappy was used more, and just might have made his presence worth the circus atmosphere surrounding his entrance. As it is, Price hasn’t much strayed from The Book.

Beyond that, Chapman should have been put into the starting rotation, oh, three years ago, where he’d have been assured to work every fifth day, and could have been dominant for 7 innings, not one. That’s why the Reds signed him in the first place.

Repoz Posted: September 02, 2014 at 10:22 AM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: reds, sabermetrics

Sharp: Yankees chasing history down the stretch

This: “If the Yankees maintain their current season pace, they would become the first team in major-league history to post back-to-back winning seasons while being outscored by at least 20 runs in each year.”

The reasons for the Yankees outperforming their expected record in 2013 and 2014 are pretty clear.

The team has played extremely well in close games, going a combined 92-60 (.605) in games decided by two runs or fewer since last year, which is easily the best such record in MLB over the last two seasons. They led the majors in 2013 with a 50-30 record and are tied with the Orioles for the best record this season (42-30).

And they have been on the losing end of a lot of blowouts, going 29-38 in games decided by five or more runs, one of the worst marks in baseball since 2013. This disparity in their record in close/blowout games easily skews their run differential into the red.

Some people may argue that the Yankees have been “lucky” to win these close games. But the fact that they have done so in consecutive years probably means that more than simple luck is involved.

So what has been the Yankees’ “secret sauce” during this historical run of beating their expected record over the last two seasons?

...Simply put, the Yankees’ late-inning guys are not letting batters get on base in these close games, keeping enough runs off the board to either preserve the team’s slim lead or give the anemic offense a chance to win with a rare clutch hit or two.

So after the Yankees postseason odds inevitably reach zero this season and as you count down the days until Number Two tips his cap for the final time, remember that there will be one statistical record within reach for this Yankee team… albeit one that may be more forgettable than remarkable.

And, needless to say, while the Yankees’ current two-year stretch of defying their run differential at historic pace is quite a feat, it’s one that most fans would gladly replace with a couple postseason appearances and meaningful games to watch in October.

Repoz Posted: September 02, 2014 at 09:29 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics, yankees

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Spencer: Trout, Donaldson rival leaders on the WAR path

WAR of the double alliance.

Josh Donaldson is no fan of WAR. The process, he maintains, is fine, but the name has to go.

“I think it’s a terrible name for what it represents,” the Athletics’ skilled and athletic third baseman said Friday afternoon. “It’s not about [wins above] replacement players. It’s an equation of how you’re affecting the game—whether it’s clutch hitting, defense, offensive production. It’s a formula to say this is what a player brings to the table, his total game.”

Donaldson hasn’t come up with a more appropriate name for the equation, but he nodded enthusiastically when a visitor suggested Total Player Rating—TPR.

“I like that,” he said with a fist bump. “That’s much better. Let’s go with it.”

Donaldson, according to Baseball-Reference.com, is the highest-rated Wins Above Replacement position player in the Major Leagues. He is giving the A’s 7.1 wins, a half-tick more than two-time reigning American League WAR kingpin Mike Trout, who is at 6.5 for the Angels.

...With the loss of Yoenis Cespedes in the swap that brought Jon Lester to Oakland, Donaldson’s importance to the A’s increased—if that is possible. He was fourth, two spots behind runner-up Trout, in the AL Most Valuable Player Award balloting last season by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“You can affect the game in more than one way,” Donaldson said. “It’s more than how you swing the bat. A lot of people say I’m having a down year, hitting [.255]. At the same time, I have those 20 errors. But there’s a lot more that goes into determining your value than your batting average and errors.”

Repoz Posted: August 31, 2014 at 07:34 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sullivan: Why Mike Trout—and the rest of the league—is having trouble with the high stuff

Pitchers, by and large, are working lower. The called strike zone has followed them... Hitters are… swinging at more pitches in the lower third… Contact rates on pitches up have declined. Contact rates on pitches down have very slightly improved… here’s what this has led to: in 2008, hitters slugged 30 points better against high strikes than they did against low strikes. The next season, they slugged 51 points better. Fast-forward now to 2014, and you’ll observe that now hitters are slugging 10 points worse against those same high strikes…

Yet, pitchers continue to work down. It’s how they’ve long been instructed, and it’s where offspeed pitches are usually supposed to go… From a recent Business Week Astros profile:

advanced data yielded a useful insight: Major league hitters had become so adept at hitting low pitches that they were vulnerable to high ones. [Billy] Beane had discovered a particularly clever countermove. “€œBeane stayed ahead of the curve,”€ says [Astros pitching coach Brent] Strom, “€œby finding hitters with a steep upward swing path to counter the sinking action of pitchers trying to induce ground balls.”

Billy Beane put together a baseball team constructed to fight those low pitches… The Astros had Collin McHugh start to throw more elevated four-seam fastballs… McHugh is having an outstanding season out of nowhere…

So this is how we proceed in the league’s hunt for equilibrium. For years, pitchers worked to throw down more and more often… The league has started to respond… [and] now the league will eventually respond to the response, re-establishing the upper parts of the zone. McHugh is one example… And then, in time, there [will] just be a response to the response to the response. Look closely enough and there’s no such thing as equilibrium at all.


FG: The A’s and Hitting With Men On Base

The “guess the A’s new inefficiency!” game is easily caricatured, but I do think they’ve got something. Here’s one theory…

Earlier this month I wrote about how the A’s front office is currently outpacing their competition when it comes to roster construction.  I focused primarily on how they’ve taken the platoon advantage to another level, loading up on defensively versatile players to allow for day-to-day lineup construction that maximizes the number of plate appearances where their hitters have the platoon advantage.  As a result of this, they get 70% of their PAs with the platoon advantage, as compared to the league average of 55%.  As part of my investigation into the platoon splits of A’s players, I also noticed another split of interest: offensive performance with runners on base as compared to with the bases empty.  After investigation, I’ve concluded that the A’s have identified and targeted players that have higher offensive production with runners on base…

taking [the A’s] players’ careers in aggregate gives us 27,000 plate appearances; across these, the players show in an increase of 14 points of BABIP and 53 points of OPS with runners aboard.  When compared to league average (6 points of BABIP and 38 points of OPS), it really looks like the A’s are targeting players that have some inherent, non-random ability to perform better with runners on base (to a greater extent than average).

The District Attorney Posted: August 30, 2014 at 03:21 PM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, sabermetrics

Friday, August 29, 2014

The First Hundred PAs: The Curious Case of Cubs Rookie Javier Baez

“Walk” is just a four-letter word.

[Javier] Baez has swung at pitches outside the strike zone 45 percent more often than the typical hitter. It’s no wonder, then, that he hasn’t seen many strikes… Baez swings at 37 percent of pitches that have a less than 5 percent probability of being called a strike, according to BP’s strike probability model. There are only four hitters with higher swing rates on those unlikely strikes than Baez this season: Reed Johnson, A.J. Pierzynski, Ramiro Peña, and Hector Sanchez. When those four swing at those distant pitches, though, they whiff only 37 percent of the time, relative to the 50 percent league average. When Baez swings at them, he misses 76 percent of the time…

Baez’s problems are even more pronounced against breaking balls, which he swings at, on average, almost 2 inches farther from the center of the zone than he does all other pitches (one of the biggest such discrepancies in the sport). Pitchers have noticed. Although they avoided the strike zone against Baez from the start based on scouting reports and reputation, they’ve dramatically upped their breaking ball usage against him as his vulnerability has become clear…

Baez’s second [homerun] of a game against the Rockies on August 7 [was on] an 0-1 slider from Juan Nicasio [that] had only an 8.3 percent probability of being called a strike… Of 188 other pitches in that area that were put in play, only two others left the park. Baez’s was the only one that went out the other way…

Baez is the youngest man in the majors, a distinction that typically implies both that a player has a ton of talent and that he has a lot to learn. He swings hard and with awe-inspiring bat speed, and the homers (he already has seven) have come almost as thick as the K’s. Baez’s contact rate when he swings at pitches inside the zone is barely below league-average; now he needs to become more judicious about swinging at pitches outside the zone, which young hitters tend to do as they add more pitches to their decision-making databases. The only question is whether the contact rate will rise enough for all the power to play.

The District Attorney Posted: August 29, 2014 at 06:23 PM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, javier baez, sabermetrics

FG (Zimmerman): Alex Gordon, UZR, and Bad Left Field Defense

Duh, but also, thanks, Jeff.

Outfield defense has three components, Range (ability to field balls), Arm and Errors. [Alex] Gordon has a great arm and his LF values since 2011 have ranged from 8 Runs to 11 Runs, so no change there. His Error component has gone from 0 to 2 Runs. Again, not the reason for the jump. The key difference is in his Range value at 14 Runs because his previous high was just 4 Runs…

Here are the league average values for in and out-of-zone values compared to Gordon’s values and the difference.

In Zone
Year: League%, Gordon%, Difference
2010: 87.1%, 91.7%, 4.6%
2011: 90.4%, 92.3%, 1.9%
2012: 89.7%, 91.3%, 1.6%
2013: 90.6%, 91.8%, 1.2%
2014: 88.4%, 91.6%, 3.2%

Out-of-Zone
Year: League Rate, Gordon Rate, Difference
2010: 0.049, 0.043, -0.006
2011: 0.065, 0.057, -0.008
2012: 0.058, 0.062, 0.004
2013: 0.066, 0.081, 0.015
2014: 0.057, 0.082, 0.025

With individual position UZR values, the baseline values can move around quite a bit. There are only 30 inputs into the baseline values, so if just a few players move to a new position or get hurt, the zero value can change… Three of the top eight [fielders by LF range in 2013] haven’t played in the majors this season…

As I’ve noted before, this is one possible area of consideration for the UZR. A potential improvement to the system for the future, and one considered in that linked piece, is a baseline defensive value which is constant from year to year in addition to just UZR… The first 500 words of this article wouldn’t be necessary if [this] metric were available. It could show Gordon’s Range Value is at a +4 Historic Runs (hypothetically speaking) compared to +14 2014 Runs. Maybe each player doesn’t need two values, maybe just a comparison value for the entire season could be available.

Putting it all together, the jump in Alex Gordon‘s total WAR to a league leading value really has nothing to do with Alex Gordon. He is the same defensive player he has been over the past few season. What has happened is the league wide level in talent has fallen off in left field thereby boosting Gordon’s numbers substantially.

The District Attorney Posted: August 29, 2014 at 01:37 PM | 47 comment(s)
  Beats: alex gordon, defense, royals, sabermetrics

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Posnanski: Alex Gordon and the M-V-P chants

We do need a modern Foster Brooks.

Every time Alex Gordon steps to the plate at Kauffman Stadium these days, fans chant, “M-V-P, M-V-P”... At the moment, Alex Gordon is hitting .281 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs. Nothing at all about that looks MVPish… [but] Look around baseball these days… There’s a chance this will be the first full season in baseball history without either a 40-home run hitter or a 20-game winner… There are players – [Jose] Abreu, [Mike] Trout, [Giancarlo] Stanton and Victor Martinez – who are putting up what you would call traditional MVP type numbers. They’re all hitting in the general range of .300, are on pace for 30-plus homers and 100 plus RBIs. But those are the only four, as of right now, who are good bets to get there, which is crazy…

[Gordon] plays spectacular defense in left field (and it really is special defense). He’s also an excellent base runner. We’ve already pointed out that his offensive numbers, in context, are better than they look. When you add it all up WAR style – you get a legitimate MVP candidate.

Or do you? This, to me, becomes a more and more interesting question. I’m working on a piece now about the statistical revolution in baseball, and among the statistical people I’m speaking with there seems to be a growing concern that we as a so called “advanced-statistics community” are beginning to make many of the same leaps of faith and broad generalizations that doomed the old statistics. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but it’s fair to say there’s a growing sense among some that WAR is becoming the advanced version of RBIs or batting average or pitcher wins – that is to say that people, to quote Vin Scully, are using WAR the way a drunk using a lamppost, for support and not illumination. Heck, I might be the Foster Brooks of WAR.

So, I’m not sure of the answer on that one. I’m a huge Alex Gordon fan and have been for some time. I really do believe he has been one of the most underrated players in baseball because he does a lot of things well. I think he SHOULD be an MVP candidate. That said, is his defense in left field SO GOOD that it makes up for the 25 or so more runs that Jose Abreu and Victor Martinez are creating offensively? Can you even BE that good in left field to make up such a gap?

WAR says yes. I want to believe it’s true. So I believe WAR.

That’s definitely support and not illumination.

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 28, 2014 at 06:14 PM | 64 comment(s)
  Beats: alex gordon, joe posnanski, royals, sabermetrics

Markusen: Seinfeld, Sabermetrics and Ken Phelps

Bruce, Bill James made me love Phelps also, but c’mon, they already had Don Mattingly and Jack Clark, it was never gonna work.

this year marks the 25th anniversary of the debut of Seinfeld, arguably the most successful sitcom in the history of American television. This month (August) also marks the 60th birthday of Ken Phelps, one of the poster children for Bill James’ Sabermetric movement of the 1980s…

Phelps had had drawn the Yankees’ interest since 1985, when Billy Martin had instructed the front office to do whatever it took to get him. Three years later, Phelps finally arrived, too late for Martin but just in time for new manager Lou Piniella. Here was the plan. Phelps would DH against right-handers, allowing the Yankees to alternate days off for Jack Clark, who was 32 years old, and Dave Winfield, who was 36. To make the trade even more favorable for New York, scouts had their doubts about Buhner, the primary ingredient the Yankees sent to the Mariners. Buhner, a onetime prospect with the Pirates, had several holes in his uppercut swing, struck out at an alarming rate, and appeared ill-suited for Death Valley at the old Yankee Stadium.

So on all fronts, trading Buhner for Phelps made me happy. Unfortunately, Piniella, who was early in his career as a field boss, couldn’t figure out how to get Phelps into the lineup more regularly. (In fairness to Piniella, the injury-prone Clark complained about having to move back to the outfield to make room for Phelps, making life more difficult for Sweet Lou.) ...

Although Phelps’ Yankee career will never amount to a Yankeeography, he is far from forgotten. Quite the contrary, he has become a popular culture icon, thanks to the efforts of Jerry Seinfeld, George Costanza, and the mythical George Steinbrenner (voiced by the brilliant Larry David)... Much like Larry David did in voicing the role of George Steinbrenner, I found myself saying “Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps” a lot in 1988, to the point that his name became an obsession with me. I thought he would become the next big thing in New York. It never happened. But I understood where George Steinbrenner was coming from. And if you were a Mariners fan in the mid-1980s, you probably did, too.

The District Attorney Posted: August 28, 2014 at 02:36 PM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: bill james, ken phelps, mariners, sabermetrics, television, yankees

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Daily Orange: Beyond the box score—SU club uses statistics to further baseball knowledge

There’s a newhouse for number-crunchers at my alma mater Syracuse, as welcoming as a Whitman sampler and good to the last Maxwell drop:

Over the past few months, the club gave a presentation at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the largest conferences in the sports analytics field. Their work was also featured in ESPN The Magazine in July.

During the 2013–14 academic year, the club worked to come up with a topic to cover in hopes of being able to attend the conference. With tough deadlines to make, a lot of coordinating via email and plans being formed over winter break, the team came up with the idea to present research on the effects of atmospheric conditions on pitch selection, said sport management professor Rodney Paul, the club’s advisor.

The work done by the club at SU was selected as one of fifteen papers to be on display at the conference this past March and club president Matt Filippi was able to travel to Boston to represent the team’s work.

“It would be a great experience for any sports fan,” said Filippi as he described his time at the conference. He added that the success of the club was due to the members’ passionate efforts toward the conference.

 

AndrewJ Posted: August 26, 2014 at 05:50 PM | 14 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics, syracuse university, these kids today

Saturday, August 23, 2014

MGL: Which teams are optimizing their lineups?

New order: Everyone everywhere.

Let’s recap the mistakes that managers typically make in constructing what they think are the best possible lineups. Again, we will ignore player preferences and other “psychological factors” not because they are unimportant, but because we don’t know know when a manager might slot a player in a position that even he doesn’t think is optimal in deference to that player. The fact that managers constantly monkey with lineups anyway suggests that player preferences are not that much of a factor. Additionally, more often than not I think, we hear players say things like, “My job is to hit as well as I can wherever the manager puts me in the lineup.” Again, that is not to say that some players don’t have certain preferences and that managers shouldn’t give some, if not complete, deference to them, especially with veteran players. In other words, an analyst advising a team or manager should suggest an optimal lineup taking into consideration player preferences. No credible analyst is going to say (or at least they shouldn’t), “I don’t care where Jeter is comfortable hitting or where he wants to hit, he should bat 8th!”

Managers typically follow the traditonal batting order philosophy which is to bat your best hitter 3rd, your slugger 4th, and fast, scrappy, good-bat handlers 1 or 2, whether they are good overall hitters or not. This is not nearly the same as an optimal batting order, based on extensive computer and mathematical research, which suggest that your best hitter should bat 2 or 4, and that you need to put your worst hitters at the bottom of the order in order to limit the number of PA they get per game and per season. Probably the biggest and most pervasive mistake that managers make is slotting terrible hitters at the top, especially in the 2-hole. Managers also put too many base stealers in front of power hitters and hitters who are prone to the GDP in the 3 hole.

Finally, managers pay too much attention (they should pay none) to short term and seasonal performance as well as specific batter/pitcher past results when constructing their batting orders. In general, your batting order versus lefty and righty starting pitchers should rarely change, other than when substituting/resting players, or occasionally when player projections significantly change, in order to suit certain ballparks or weather conditions, or extreme ground ball or fly ball opposing pitchers (and perhaps according to the opposing team’s defense). Other than L/R platoon considerations (and avoiding batting consecutive lefties if possible), most of these other considerations (G/F, park, etc.) are marginal at best.

...Looking at all these “optimal” lineups, the trend is pretty clear. Bat your best hitters at the top and your worst at the bottom, and do NOT put a scrappy, no-hit batter in the two hole! The average projected linear weights per 150 games for the number two hitter in our 4 best actual lineups is 19.25 runs. The average 2-hole hitter in our 4 worst lineups is -20 runs. That should tell you just about everything you need to know about lineups construction.

Repoz Posted: August 23, 2014 at 09:29 AM | 73 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Friday, August 22, 2014

FG: Ben Revere and the Emptiest Batting Average Ever

Commenters point out that, if Revere’s current stats hold up, he will join only two other post-1900 players with lower wOBA than BA, and 49 others with a 2.1% or lower walk rate.

To look for players to compare to [Ben] Revere historically, I looked for other player seasons… which had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title with a batting average at least as high as Revere’s but a walk rate and isolated slugging (slugging minus batting average) below his… In fact, since 1900 (it’s not worth going earlier because seasons were much shorter then), the only player with at least 400 plate appearances that had as high of a batting average with as little other hitting value is … Ben Revere. That’s it…

If you disregard his sub-par defense (especially compared to what you would expect from a guy with his speed), Revere really isn’t a terrible offensive player. If you took away all of his steals and instead turned that many singles into doubles, he’d have a slugging percentage around the league average. The problem is, a single followed by a steal isn’t as valuable as a double because it doesn’t advance runners on base, so his value would really be something less than that of a player with league-average slugging. Even if he posts a batting average way above the mean in any given season, he never walks or gets extra-base hits, so he has to sustain that mark against all kinds of luck and defensive factors in order to give the Phillies even passable offensive value. It’s a game that the Phillies seem interested in playing, and it’s defensible because of his obviously high average and stolen base totals, but I’m just not sure if they’re going to win that way.

The District Attorney Posted: August 22, 2014 at 02:06 PM | 59 comment(s)
  Beats: ben revere, phillies, sabermetrics

Thursday, August 21, 2014

FG: Brian McCann Probably Couldn’t Be Given Away For Free

Take a real class about McCant’s!

Much has been made of [Brian] McCann and his issues facing the shift, and that’s true to an extent… [but] He’s always been shifted on. It’s overly simplistic to put it all on that.

Besides, McCann has been doing what he can to avoid it. His grounder rate of 33.0% is easily the lowest of his career, and… He’s actually in the top 15 as far as lefty hitters going the other way…

McCann’s walk rate [has declined] pretty steadily from 2010 until now, where it’s less than half what it was, and this is sort of the thing: McCann’s lousy year isn’t any one thing. It’s a few small things, adding up… McCann’s power, which everyone figured would translate well to the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium, hasn’t come with him. It’s actually less that he’s failed to take advantage of right field in the Bronx, and more that it’s been the only thing making his homer totals look even respectable… Every single one [of his homeruns] is out to right field; all but two are at Yankee Stadium…

McCann will need to improve considerably just to get back to being a league-average hitter, and even with how difficult it is to find offense from behind the plate, that’s not exactly what the Yankees were hoping for when they invested so much in him over the winter.

The District Attorney Posted: August 21, 2014 at 01:49 PM | 49 comment(s)
  Beats: brian mccann, sabermetrics, yankees

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BP: Moonshot: The Analytic Value of the Crack of the Bat

What’s the frequency, Robert?

I collected several games worth of audio, saving individual audio files for each contact event, and noting the result of that contact in broad terms (fly out, groundout, home run, etc.).

The result of that work was a small sample (5-10) of each event variety…

 

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:47 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: baseball prospectus, sabermetrics

The Shift Episode 14: Saberseminar - August 19, 2014 - Beyond the Box Score

More info about the Saberseminar. I really wanted to attend. I had tickets this year. The venue was 45 minutes away. Unfortunately family responsibilities kept me away. Sometimes being responsible really, really sucks.

Jim Furtado Posted: August 20, 2014 at 09:26 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Sabermetrics Gets Soft «

Good stuff.

Jim Furtado Posted: August 20, 2014 at 09:24 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sam Miller: The beauty (in the eye of the beholder) of the Strikeout Era

Suspended in time and space of the noodle-hitting 60’s for a moment, your introduction to Mr. Sam Miller, who lives in a very private world of darkness, a baseball universe whose home plate dimensions are no longer the size, thickness, length of a swath of bandages that cover his face.

I would never presume that I could convince Rob Neyer that those things I find appealing should be appealing to him, too. Matters of taste are matters of taste. It won’t matter to him that I love to watch a 14-strikeout game the way others love to watch heavy waves crashing near a shoreline; or that the divinely inspired pitching lines of Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara and Dellin Betances are as awesome as the Velvet Underground’s discography or Benjamin Franklin’s curriculum vitae; or that I love the final moments of a strikeout—the terrible swings and the baffled takes, the pitcher’s circumnavigatory strut around the mound—more than any of baseball’s alternative denouements; or that I find the three-step progression toward a resolution to be far more satisfying than the sudden deus ex machina of a ball in play. These features of the strikeout please me, and if they don’t please Rob (or you) I accept that no volume of effusion will change that. Taste is just chemicals telling us what to like, after all, and rhetoric’s power over those chemicals is limited.

...We used to live in a world where games were tight. Then hitters started hitting everything hard, and before we knew it games were no longer tight. You’d turn a game on in the fourth inning and it was 14-2 or 17-1 or 10-2 or 11-5. If baseball games seem too long in general, imagine how long they seem when the last two hours are just an unnecessary ending for a premature conclusion. Andrelton Simmons can make all the plays in the world; if they are not actually for something (like preserving a two-run lead) then what good are they?

Fundamentally, then, baseball is better now. You might think that offense makes the game more exciting, that strikeouts make it more repetitive, but the fundamentals of the competition are strong. Just turn on the TV at any random moment, look at how close the score is, and you’ll see.

...Now, I will note one thing in favor of the strikeout era: You’re more likely to turn on a game and have the score be tied today. Ties are exciting, maybe the most exciting, so the pro-strikeouts crowd has that going for us. And maybe, just maybe, the relative closeness of the score doesn’t matter as much as the numbers themselves; maybe our brains are too simple to recognize that a two-run lead is larger now than it used to be, and we’re just happy to see more two-run games. To see more of what our simple brains categorize as “games.”

But that’s just a desperate hope on my part. More accurately, I can only conclude that strikeouts make it more likely that the game I turn on has already been decided. There it is, the objective and incontrovertible argument against the strikeout era. Siggggh. If you need me, I’ll be over here, clinging to the last defense of a losing argument: personal taste.

Repoz Posted: August 19, 2014 at 01:13 PM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: history, sabermetrics

BP (Levine): Will a pitcher ever be suspended for hitting a batter again?

Just saw a headline about Kirk Gibson being back, so we’ll probably find out!

In 2006, 12 players were suspended multiple games for beanballs alone… This year, beyond bat-tossin’ Manny Machado, the only players to get multiple games for anything were Martin Maldonado, Carlos Gomez, and Travis Snider for their roles in that dumb Pirates-Brewers fight. Nobody has been suspended for the hit by pitches that have sparked cultural debates and, at times, have really hurt. Only once this year has it happened: Brandon Workman vs. Evan Longoria, on a pitch that missed head-high on June 2. Since then, nothing… What happens the next time MLB wants to issue a suspension for an intentional hit by pitch and the player appeals, citing this year’s precedent?...

The easiest way out of this precedent would be for the next intentional hit batsman to start a massive brawl or lead to something unusual occurring… [but] Nobody charges the mound anymore… [and] We’ve sort of already tried that this year. Fernando Abad was ejected for throwing the pitch that led to Machado’s bat throw. He was also not suspended even though it turned into an ugly incident.

So MLB might not get there the easy way, which leaves the hard way: A pitcher seriously injuring a hitter. Put a fastball in somebody’s brain and precedent may not matter much.

Even then, it will look like Major League Baseball is only affirming one of the dumb cliches: That there’s a right way to hit batters. Still, that’s a step up from what the last few months may have revealed about MLB’s thinking.

The District Attorney Posted: August 19, 2014 at 12:13 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: baseball prospectus, hit batsmen, sabermetrics, suspensions

Monday, August 18, 2014

Passan: Breaking down the schedules for all 19 MLB playoff contenders

What if they gave a postseason and no team was good?

Baseball’s two richest teams find themselves at the opposite end of the scheduling spectrum. Presenting, then, a complete breakdown of the stretch schedules for all 19 – 19! – playoff contenders, going from hardest to easiest, and starting with the ...

1. New York Yankees… 2. Tampa Bay Rays… 3. Cincinnati Reds… 4. Miami Marlins… 5. Los Angeles Angels… 6. Toronto Blue Jays… 7. Seattle Mariners… 8. Milwaukee Brewers… . Washington Nationals… 10. Pittsburgh Pirates… 11. Cleveland Indians… 12. Detroit Tigers…13. Atlanta Braves… 14. Oakland A’s… 15. San Francisco Giants… 16. St. Louis Cardinals… 17. Baltimore Orioles… 18. Kansas City Royals… 19. Los Angeles Dodgers

The District Attorney Posted: August 18, 2014 at 02:43 PM | 34 comment(s)
  Beats: jeff passan, playoffs, sabermetrics

Brisbee: Jedd Gyorko’s 31 homers isn’t the saddest team record

[Jedd] Gyorko’s 31 homers as a second baseman in his Padres career is a franchise record. Total. For any second baseman’s entire Padres career. That’s a sad record.

But is it the saddest record? As in, what’s the lowest total for a franchise leader at every position? With the help of Baseball-Reference.com, we can find out…

C - Rays (Toby Hall, 44 home runs) and Pirates (Jason Kendall, 66)..
1B - Diamondbacks (Paul Goldschmidt, 82) and Angels (Wally Joyner, 116)...
SS - Astros (Adam Everett, 35)...
3B - Brewers (Don Money, 78)...
LF - Padres (Greg Vaughn, 72)...
CF - Rangers (Don Lock, 71)...
RF - Rays (Matt Joyce, 47) and Astros (Hunter Pence, 88)...
DH - Twins (David Ortiz, 42)

Oh.

Oh, my.

That’s much, much sadder than the Gyorko thing. That’s much, much, much sadder on several different levels.

(Note: Jason Kubel also had 42 as a Twins DH, but Ortiz kinda needs to be in that header by himself for effect.)

It’s too late to change history, but…

The District Attorney Posted: August 18, 2014 at 02:32 PM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: grant brisbee, jedd gyorko, padres, sabermetrics

Neyer: Grains of salt

Get that dunce cap off your head and put it on Pedro Guerrero’s!

If I gave you a choice of any non-Kershaw major leaguer for the rest of the season, who would you choose?

Right: Mike Trout. Get that dunce cap off your head and move a little closer to my desk, right this minute.

And your second choice?

I’m not going to make you put the dunce cap back on if you don’t immediately think of Alex Gordon. But by this measure, he’s actually been the best player in the major leagues this season... [but] There’s no functional difference between 5.7 fWAR and 5.6 fWAR. Better to say those two have been the two best in the majors this season…

this is where I caution everyone, quite carefully: None of this means that the people at FanGraphs believe Alex Gordon is one of the two best players in the majors, or is as valuable as Mike Trout.

Every method has limitations, and we’re simply looking for the method with the fewest limitations. Wins Above Replacement is really good. But this version, anyway, seems to overrate really good corner outfielders like Alex Gordon and Jason Heyward. I think Gordon’s a great player. I’m just not sure he’s this great.

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 18, 2014 at 02:26 PM | 52 comment(s)
  Beats: alex gordon, angels, mike trout, rob neyer, royals, sabermetrics

Speier: Are Red Sox too dependent on David Ortiz?

Hey, go back to 1891 and get 39-year-old Papi Anson also leading the league in RBI! (Don’t call him that to his face, though.)

[David] Ortiz leads the major leagues in RBIs on a team that ranks last in the American League and 24th in the majors in runs scored. He’s driven in 91 of the team’s 475 runs (19.2 percent), the highest percentage of any team’s runs driven in by a single player in the big leagues. He’s hit 28 of the team’s 92 homers (30.4 percent), accounting for the second-highest percentage of a team’s homers…

Since 1901, there have been 47 players with 500 or more plate appearances in their age 39 season. Of those, 31 have had an OPS+ of 100 or better, topped by Barry Bonds’ 263, followed by Ted Williams’ 179; 15 of those players have had an OPS+ of 120 or better…

based on the raw numbers… the Sox face something like a 37 percent decreased likelihood that Ortiz will be able to reach 500 plate appearances next season as a 39-year-old.

But if he does remain on the field, there appears to be a superstar survival effect, where roughly two out of every three players are at least league average producers at each of these ages, and interestingly, a slightly increasing percentage of these players produce at an elite level suggested by an OPS+ of 120 or greater.

So the idea of a 39-year-old David Ortiz anchoring a lineup isn’t unprecedented. But for a Red Sox team that will be trying to dig out from the wreckage of a dismal 2014 season, knowing that there have only been 15 players in the last 114 years to deliver some semblance of the health and production that they hope for from Ortiz represents a daunting reality, at a time when the lineup has no obvious ability to support the veteran from being anything less than a force.

 

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 18, 2014 at 02:02 PM | 18 comment(s)
  Beats: alex speier, david ortiz, red sox, sabermetrics

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bill James Mailbag - 8/8/14 - 8/17/14

Could we get Elway wrestling, Eisenhower playing quarterback, and Randy Savage as Supreme Allied Commander?

Is there any systematic account available of the changes over the years in player movement and roster utilization, both team to team and majors to minors, both the rules governing this stuff and the actual practices? I know in general terms that things have changed immensely since I was a newbie baseball fan about the same time you were. The tipping point for me came in 2010 when I realized that my Giants were allowed to leave a healthy season-long rotation starter (bad as he was) off the postseason roster. To me, that kind of move, while it might make strategic sense, really subverts the idea of a baseball “team” that we’re supposed to root for. Somehow I doubt that would have happened in 1962.

I’m not aware of their being any such account, but then, I’m a poor resource for that kind of information, since I don’t really study the research the other people do. Generally. I agree that. . .well, you didn’t EXACTLY say this, but. . .I agree that more restrictive rules would be appropriate in some areas. In a perfect game, should not be able to leave somebody who has been a key part of your team all year off your post-season roster unless he’s 80% dead. And I’m CERTAIN that I’m about to hear from somebody that we left so-and-so off our roster in 2007 or something. . ..

June 26 1987 at Yankee Stadium… Schiraldi gave up a walk, a bunt and a single to lose the game in the bottom of the tenth, 12-11. Dave Henderson batted for Gedman in the top of the 10th, which meant that Marc Sullivan caught the tenth. Wonder if that was the highest leverage inning of Sullivan’s “career?”

If Sullivan didn’t have leverage, he wouldn’t have had a career.

An injured Pedro coming in to relieve Bret Saberhagen in a high-scoring game after 3, and then proceeded to mow everyone down. That was beautiful to watch. Pedro recently talked about that for a few minutes in an hour-long podcast with Jonah Keri. Maybe someone can cue it up. Pedro is fascinating to listen to.

He is. I wonder if Pedro has perhaps the highest density of memorable games to total games pitched of anybody who has a Hall of Fame career?

Hey Bill, I was thinking about Derek Jeter. If he wasn’t a Yankee I would look at him and see that he likes beautiful women and baseball. (Not sure of the order) I would like and root for him. What can I do about this? Steve

Yeah, well, I have a neighbor who’s a real nice guy, too, but I don’t feel compelled to stand beside the sidewalk and applaud every time he goes out to pick up his newspaper.

I have also thought since I became aware of Voros McCracken’s papers on pitchers non-effect on batted ballsl that you were 90% of the way there with DER . If it makes you feel better, in this area you are Henri Poincare to Voros’ Einstein.

It was my childhood ambition to someday be compared to Henri Poincare.

John Elway had pretty impressive stats in his one minor league season with the Yankees. In 1982 at age 22, he had 185 plate appearances in low A with a .318 batting average, .432 on-base percentage, .464 slugging percentage. Who is the most promising baseball player (in minors, college) who never ended up playing because he pursued another career, be it football, poetry, or whatever else?

Dwight Eisenhower?

Highest density of memorable games for a non-HOFer with significant games pitched is probably Maglie, right? He wasn’t just in the right places at the right time, but at his peak whenever opportunity arose. I read a book a few years back that showcased the most memorable games. I’m pretty sure Maglie not only had more of them than anyone, but appeared in a stretch of something like four out of five.

I’ll take your word for it. It’s that, ,or cook up a formula. .. ..


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Retrosheet: Soper-Understanding The Value of the Next Run. Why Sabermetricians Are Wrong and Traditional Baseball is Right

By focusing solely on runs scored and not on winning baseball games sabermetricians miss the impact the context of scoring has on the value of a run.

“A hitter’s job is to create runs for his team” The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
Bill James is wrong. He is wrong on a fundamental concept of baseball.

For example, if the lead-off hitter in an inning reaches 1st the team is expected to score .941 runs that inning. If he steals 2nd the expected run total increases to 1.17. If he is thrown out, however, the expected runs drops to .291 (1out, bases empty). By stealing 2nd the runner is risking .65 runs to gain .229 runs. You can calculate the threshold of success by dividing the runs risked by the total of the runs risked and the runs possibly gained. In this case .65/(.65+.229) = .739, in other words the correct strategy is to steal 2nd if you will be successful more than 73.9% of the time. In this case you would gain .229 runs * 73.9% and lose .65 runs * 26.1% and would break even.
But if you only need 1 run, say it’s tied in the bottom of the 9th, you just want to focus on the first run.
We can use the right side of TABLE 3 to calculate threshold of a runner stealing 2nd in the bottom of the 9th after a lead-off walk. From 1st his team will score 44.1% of the time. From 2nd his team will score 63.7% of the time. If he is thrown out his team’s scoring chance drops to 17.2%. So by attempting to steal he is risking .269 to gain .196. We compute the threshold the same way: .269/(.269+.196) = 57.7%. “Holy Tony La Russa, Batman!” We knew that maximizing runs didn’t make sense in the bottom of the 9th, but still that is a big drop.

Correct me if I’m wrong but it doesn’t appear to me that Soper is accounting for the other team’s run scoring ability or that late innings have a different run environment than average.  Plus he’s using a strawman argument when declaring that sabermetrics would tell you to do one thing in a very specific situation based on a very general strategy.

McCoy Posted: August 16, 2014 at 08:59 AM | 61 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

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