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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Newsweek: With Big Data, Moneyball Will Be on Steroids

More Statcasting…and the death of the amateur sabermetrician?

Another incentive for the league—particularly in the face of rising salaries—is an improved understanding of player value, particularly on the defensive end, where teams have focused more attention in the past few years. Defensive shifts, once only employed by the wonkiest teams, have become a league-wide staple thanks to advances in batted-ball data. The problem is, shifts or not, evaluating glove work remains difficult, as most teams rely on some combination of scouting reports, play-by-play data and manual charting. Statcast offers something better: a way to focus on a player’s defensive attributes—his reaction time, range, route efficiency and so on—rather than his results, which are influenced by too many independent variables to list. This potential has excited many outside the industry (especially with the promise that the data will be made public) and even more within.

The only negative to come from all the new technology could be the death of the hobbyist. An important consideration, because some hobbyists have done research that changed how people inside and outside the industry approach the game. For example, Mike Fast was working as a physicist when he used PITCHf/x data to confirm the long-held suspicion that catchers influence how umpires call balls and strikes. Fast is now employed by the Houston Astros. Because the new data are so unwieldy, the barrier to entry so high, only select outsiders will possess the computing strength and wits to scale the wall. In time, someone might make a discovery that eluded the industry. Otherwise, the real advances—those that change how teams are built and how strategies are employed—will happen behind closed doors.

Mike Emeigh Posted: July 26, 2014 at 09:22 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: analytics, moneyball, sabermetrics

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

CSN: Enough is enough — time to move on from Ryan Howard

The budget Ryan plan…

At what point does this experiment end? Howard is hitting .224 with a .305 on-base percentage. He has one home run in his last 121 plate appearances. He has three doubles in his last 55 games dating back to May 22.

The Phillies are throwing away games and costing themselves wins by batting Howard fourth nearly every night. It hurts to write that about a player as gregarious, as friendly, as easy to root for as Howard, but it’s the truth. There is no longer a logical defense for him.

Howard’s backers cite his RBI total, that he’s driven in 60 runs. Well, so have 17 other major-leaguers. And Howard has had more plate appearances this season with men on base than any player in baseball.

In 224 of Howard’s plate appearances, one or more runners have been on base. He’s driven in just 14.8 percent of them. More than 175 players have a better rate of plating their baserunners.

Howard is owed $25 million next season. He’s owed $25 million the season after that. In 2017, he’s on the books for $23 million but can be bought out for $10 million. So he will be paid at least $60 million over the next three seasons, making him completely untradeable unless the Phillies pick up just about every dollar.

...Playing him everyday, batting him fourth everyday, will not turn this situation around. Howard has hit .236 with 40 home runs in his last 1,026 plate appearances. His OPS over that span is two percent below the league average. That’s a pretty indicative sample size.

At this point, Darin Ruf deserves the opportunity. Bat Marlon Byrd cleanup until/unless he’s traded. Maybe bring up Maikel Franco and give him a two-month look against major-league pitching. See what they can do with all of the RBI opportunities that have gone to waste.

Because the easy route, the loyal route, the status quo that values feelings over results ... that isn’t working.

Repoz Posted: July 23, 2014 at 03:08 PM | 114 comment(s)
  Beats: phillies, sabermetrics

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

As shifts suppress offense, time has come to consider a rule change

Lefthanded hitters have lost 22 points on their batting average on balls in play to rightfield this year alone – and 85 points in nine years.

Good material with some good numbers in here.  But it’s questionable that this is the solution:

Support of an “illegal defense” rule – or at least the consideration of it – is gaining some traction in baseball. Such a rule might stipulate, for instance, that you cannot have three infielders on one side of second base. A shortstop would be able to shift as far as directly behind second base on a lefthanded hitter, but no farther.

Karl from NY Posted: July 22, 2014 at 03:10 PM | 90 comment(s)
  Beats: defense, rules of play, sabermetrics

MLB: Astros telecasts catching on to advanced metrics

Meanwhile back in the media capital of the world…derisive “analyst” Paul O’Neill says: “Frank Thomas was a one dimensional player.”

The idea was bandied about last year by CSN Houston senior producer Carl Patterson, who discussed with his staff how to realistically work some of this into the telecasts. Because the Astros’ front office relies so much on advanced metrics, introducing some of it, independently, into the telecasts seemed like a logical next step. The question was, how to do it?

“Normally, the standard thing is RBIs, batting average, home runs,” Patterson said. “Last year, we talked about doing a whole game where we just talked about sabermetrics stuff. But we kind of realized that none of us understood it well enough to talk about it intelligently. So I spent the offseason just thinking about how to do it.”

...This is something Astros TV analyst Alan Ashby—who admittedly is not a huge sabermetrics fan—feels comfortable with, and often expounds on it when a WAR stat pops up on screen.

“One of the reasons that I bring it up is some part of it is subjective on the defensive side,” Ashby said. “You’ve got Mike Trout from a couple of years ago that has so much WAR positive created on his defensive side. That’s the kind of stuff that makes it intriguing to me.”

Patterson limits the metrics-speak to five main concepts: WAR, BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), wRC (Weighted Runs Created), FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and Z-Contact% (Inside-the-zone contact percentage).

“I feel like five is enough,” Patterson said. “Pick five that make sense to our guys, then talk about it fluently and passionately.”

Repoz Posted: July 22, 2014 at 09:15 AM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, media, sabermetrics

Sunday, July 20, 2014

KMOV: St. Louis defense continues to keep games in reach

The Vision of St. Louis…or Something.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ defense appears to be better this year than last, but manager Mike Matheny is reluctant to give all the credit to Sabermetrics-inspired shifts the team has used this season.

He said the coaching staff does a good job of pre-game discussions about hitters and how they are going to be defended in certain situations. While the Cardinals may have used shifts more this year, Matheny said it’s only one component to the defense. And, although helpful, Sabermetrics don’t yet tell them things like where the defensive players started from when they made a play, the route they took, where they went, etc.

He said the Birds still use a lot of traditional methods to defend hitters, including spray charts, pitcher match-ups, and history. He also said that moving players defensively has been going on forever. When those subtle positioning moves become a shift has never clearly been defined.

Overall, he is pleased with the teams’ defensive performance. “We see good defensive ability (with current Cardinal starters).”  The Cardinals are second in the National League in defense with just 46 errors for a .987 fielding percentage. Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta lead the team in errors with 8 each, but, according to Sabermetrics, have saved nearly as many runs above average for that position.

Repoz Posted: July 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM | 48 comment(s)
  Beats: cardinals, sabermetrics

Thursday, July 17, 2014

WaPo: Research supports the notion of the ‘hot hand’

Green and Zwiebel studied two million MLB at-bats from 2000 to 2011. They neutralized for the abilities of the hitter and pitchers — such as lefty-on-lefty matchups and stadium sizes — and focused on 10 major statistical categories, such as batting averages, home run percentages and strikeout rates.

They found that a hitter’s past 25 at-bats were a significant predictor of his next at-bat. When a player is hot, they found his expected on-base percentage to be 25 to 30 points higher than it would if he were cold. Home run rates jumped 30 percent and strikeout rates dropped. For pitchers in hot streaks, future performance was improved, too.

“The effect is fairly large,” Zwiebel said. “It’s highly significant not just in the statistical sense but the strategic sense. The effect is large enough where it makes sense for managers to sit a cold hitter or play a hot hitter, or perhaps the strategical adjustments for a pitcher to pitch around a hot hitter.”

Chris Needham Posted: July 17, 2014 at 11:28 AM | 80 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics, statistics, stats

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

MGL: What’s in store for the Tigers in the second half?

Tigers don’t suck…at least according to MGL.

What does the rest of 2014 look like for the Detroit Tigers? We would expect their collective pitcher projections for the rest of the season to be nearly the same as before the season began. Their hitter projections might be a tad better and their defensive projections a tad worse. Overall, we wouldn’t expect their rest-of-season (ROS) win percentage to be much different from their pre-season win percentage, which was .543. That would give them a final record of 92 wins and 70 losses, enough for an easy first place finish in the AL Central.

In fact, if we look at Fangraphs’ projected final standings, lo and behold, we see a final W/L record of 92-70, 10 games ahead of the second place Royals and 11 games above the third place Indians. If we look at Baseball Prospectus’ projected standings, we see a slightly less optimistic forecast for the Tigers – a final record of 90 and 72, 7 games ahead of the Royals and 10 games ahead of the Indians. The good folks at BP also have the Tigers’ playoff chances at 89% and their chances of winning the World Series at 12.3%, behind only the Oakland A’s (at 14.9%), and ever so-slightly being the Los Angeles Angels (13%) and Los Angeles Dodgers (13.1%).

The Tigers are a fine team with a solid offense and excellent starting pitching. They can absolutely upgrade their bullpen, especially the front end. If and when veteran flamethrower Joel Hanrahan comes back from Tommy John surgery, that will be a boost to the pen, assuming that he’s still effective. (Reports are that Hanrahan MAY NOT be available during the regular season). It would also be nice if they had a dominant ace or two rather than the aging and sometimes ineffective Nathan and the good but not great Alburquerque. Their defense is not as bad as their first half team UZR suggests, although they are likely a little below average in true talent with the gloves. Expect them to run away with the American League Central division and with a little luck win a pennant and perhaps the World Series.

Repoz Posted: July 16, 2014 at 07:33 AM | 16 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics, tigers

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Drama after Billy Butler’s drop in Royals lineup isn’t what anyone wanted

The last thing this eight-years-in-the-Processing Royals season needs is drama, but here it is anyway. One of the team’s highest-paid and longest-tenured players feels singled out and is going passive-aggressive to make his point and subtly call out a teammate.

Ego and self-interest are on both sides of this, team and player each having legitimate beef. Billy Butler justifiably sees himself as the club’s most established hitter, and wonders why he’s been occasionally benched and now moved down in the lineup for the second time while Eric Hosmer appears to have birthrights to the top of the batting order every day.

The truth is that Hosmer’s spot in the lineup is being evaluated, but for now, the team sees Butler as an underperforming and now overpaid hitter on a roster in desperate need of consistent production, exposing an ego that’s always simmered just beneath the surface.

Ned Yost has final say on the lineup, which is put together with the input of the coaches and front office, including sabermetric specialists. None of them would say it publicly, but moving Butler down in the lineup while keeping Hosmer higher is as clear a sign as the team can give that — track record or not — they have more faith in Hosmer reaching his potential than in Butler regaining his past.

Wait, what? You buried the lede! The Royals have sabermetric specialists????

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 08, 2014 at 11:50 AM | 17 comment(s)
  Beats: billy butler, dayton moore, ned yost, royals, sabermetrics

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Jewish Light: Here’s a Moneyball maven striking it rich for Athletics

As director of professional scouting and baseball development for the Oakland Athletics, Dan Feinstein scouts amateur players, evaluates the organization’s talent, is involved in contract negotiations and arbitration cases, ponders trades and analyzes potential free agent signees.

His varied portfolio is news to at least one of the team’s players.

“I don’t doubt that he does a lot, and has done a lot, for the organization, but I don’t know to what extent,” catcher Derek Norris said of Feinstein during a recent A’s visit here.

For the past three years, Feinstein, 42, has been one of the prominent executives powering the Oakland approach to diamond success known as Moneyball under its guru, general manager Billy Beane.

There’s been plenty of success this season for the American League West-leading Athletics, who boast one of the best records in baseball and stand near the top of the league in team pitching and hitting. And they’ve been doing it with an assortment of players excelling in both the traditional and Moneyball statistical categories.

Beane employed the Moneyball strategy to enable his low-revenue Athletics to compete against richer clubs. Popularized by the Michael Lewis book “Moneyball” in 2003 and the 2011 film of the same name starring Brad Pitt, the plan has spread throughout the major leagues.

Moneyball aims to identify and acquire undervalued players by placing a premium on what were then newly minted statistics such as OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage), as well as walks, caught stealing, pitches taken and other measures.

...In 1995, he jumped at Beane’s offer to add videotaping to his chores. The following season it became his full-time job.

“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been in the right place at the right time,” Feinstein said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in baseball who would tell you they look at their job as a job.”

Like anyone employed in a baseball team’s front office, Feinstein said, he aspires to “bigger and better things” professionally, including being a general manager. He added, however, “I’m extremely comfortable and thankful in the role I currently have.”

A key aspect of that role is the Major League Baseball draft, which was held last month. Eighteen of Oakland’s 40 selections were pitchers.

“That was by design,” Feinstein explained. “The only way that we’re going to have success at the major-league level is if we have pitching, and you can never have enough of it. It’s the single biggest asset we need to compete.”

Thanks to DW.

Repoz Posted: July 03, 2014 at 05:31 PM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: oakland, sabermetrics

Murray Chass on Baseball: BREWERS BOAST BEST IMPROVEMENT

Murray & Melvins boner records

lp

The Brewers’ first-half success is welcomed by those of us who have not become wild-eyed fans of analytics. Melvin doesn’t disdain new-fangled statistics, but he keeps them in perspective.

“I use certain numbers,” he said without identifying them. “We use them internally. We don’t advertise them. Some are useful, some aren’t.”

Melvin said he doesn’t use them for minor leaguers. “The minor leagues are for development,” he said. “You can’t analyze players in the minor leagues. You develop players and until they get through the teaching process it’s hard to analyze the numbers. The minor league numbers don’t always relate to major league success.”

One of the reasons minor leaguers can’t be judged on the new statistics, Melvin said, is the intangibles. “Who are the players willing to take instruction,” he asked, citing one intangible that can’t be determined by a sabermetric formula. Á lot of players have early success but don’t develop,” he said.

Melvin also said new statistics can be costly to teams that live by them. He cited the Boston Red Sox signing of Carl Crawford as an example. The Red Sox gave Crawford $142 million “because he had a 6 ½ WAR number,” then couldn’t wait to trade him.

“There’s a spot for analytics,” he said. “You can put a certain percentage of weight on them. But some of the analytics have a high cost.”

Putting my view in perspective, Melvin said, “A scout once said ‘I may not be educated but my eyes are.’”

Repoz Posted: July 03, 2014 at 12:26 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: brewers, sabermetrics

Duff: Moneyball alone won’t add up to titles

Duff reaction: Carbon copy.

Brad Ausmus is an Ivy Leaguer.

In other words, he’s known guys with pocket protectors. He’s seen number crunchers up close in action.
And yet when you ask him about Moneyball, he’ll tell you it doesn’t add up.

“There is value in numbers,” admitted Ausmus, the Dartmouth product who manages the Detroit Tigers. “I think the important thing is you don’t want to inundate players with numbers.”
Ausmus doesn’t completely discredit Moneyball, sabermetrics, or fancy stats, whatever you might want to call it.

Nor should he.

Nor should anyone.

What he does point out – and again, he’s correct in this assessment – is that taken alone, it’s simply not a formula for winning baseball.

The Athletics are living proof of that.

...Ausmus is also a believer in sabermetrics, just not on a daily basis.

“There’s value in it, but on a day-to-day lineup basis, you wouldn’t use that,” Ausmus said.

“If you’re a general manager projecting what a guy’s going to do over the next 2-3 years, whether to give him a multi-year deal, what his age is, how that plays out in terms of success, from an analytical sense, there’s probably more value in that for a general manager than a manager.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t use some numbers in our decision-making process, whether it’s in making out the lineup or defensive positioning.

“I see the value in it, but I certainly don’t live and die by it.”

The A’s continue to live and die by Moneyball.

Living large in the regular season. Dying off quickly in the playoffs.

Repoz Posted: July 03, 2014 at 08:14 AM | 45 comment(s)
  Beats: oakland, sabermetrics, tigers

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Techie’s website hits ‘cool’ factor out of the park - Houston Chronicle

Baseball cool or geek cool?

You don’t have to work for the Astros or any team to be baseball cool in this town, and Daren Willman is quintessential baseball cool.

Jim Furtado Posted: July 01, 2014 at 07:23 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, sabermetrics, technology

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bill Madden: An Old Brew GM

Melvin’s: With Yo’ Eyes, Not Yo’ Stats. (King Buzzkill)

For a guy whose team has just had the best first-half in the 45-year history of the franchise, Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin is sounding pretty grumpy about the state of baseball these days. Maybe it’s because the 62-year-old Melvin, an old school GM who values scouts over Ivy League whiz kid stat geeks, thinks his NL Central-leading Brewers deserve a little more respect from the Sabermetrics crowd. “There’s this one guy,” Melvin was saying by phone Friday, “who rates the prospects in every organization, and last year labeled (Brewer second baseman) Scooter Gennett ‘just a backup utility player.’ Well, Scooter’s only hit nothing but .300 since last year and been one of our most important players this year and yet, when the guy was asked about him again last week, he repeated the same thing; that he thought he was nothing more than a ‘backup utility player.’ Why can’t these (stat) guys ever admit they’re wrong? A lot of them don’t even watch the games. But then everything has changed so much in baseball. Everything now has to be immediate. We live in a world of Instagrams when, more than any other sport, the most important thing in baseball is that you’ve got to be patient.”

Melvin cited his left fielder, Khris Davis, currently leading the Brewers with 14 homers and 42 RBI, as perhaps the best example of that. It took Davis five years to win himself a regular job with the Brewers, partly because of his below-average arm, even for left field. “This winter I traded (outfielder) Norichika Aoki, who was one of our most popular players, to Kansas City for (lefty reliever) Will Smith, whose been a key guy (1.36 ERA, 49 Ks in 39.2 IP) in our bullpen,” Melvin said. “I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t think Davis was ready to be an everyday productive player for us.”

So the Sabermetric set aside, how does Melvin assess his Brewers, who, going into the weekend, had the largest lead of any of the first-place teams? “We’re not great, but we’re not bad either,” he said. “What we are is very balanced in the four important areas — offense, where we’re second (in the NL) in runs, starting pitching, bullpen and defense, where we’re considerably improved from last year when we had 24 errors alone at first base.”

Repoz Posted: June 29, 2014 at 04:01 PM | 23 comment(s)
  Beats: brewers, sabermetrics

Jerry Green: MLB Sabermetrics geeks quick to make silly grand proclamations

And all hail SABR’s Alex Bensky in the comment’s section!

This was considerably before Bill James learned to count to two. So it was somewhat before the creation of Sabermetrics with its collection of numbers freaks. This is the group of baseball intelligentsia who pay homage to James with the mystical belief that statistics never mattered until such arcane data as WAR and OPS were concocted.

Bradley’s gem also was somewhat before Clayton Kershaw’s recent no-hitter for the Dodgers was classified as the second-best baseball game ever pitched. If not the best. This was proclaimed in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, by a so-called expert on CBS Sports’ website and by a writer with ESPN.

Their claim was based on Game Score, a metric that James conjured up to gauge pitching efficiency. He did it by gathering such facts as strikeouts, walks, hits allowed, outs recorded, etc., and placing them into a blender. It included nothing about quality of opponent.

The result is, according to Game Score, that only Kerry Wood had pitched a better game in the 138-year history of Major League Baseball than Kershaw did June 18, 2014. And Wood actually pitched a one-hitter.

For some peculiar reason that has eluded the Sabermetricians, there has been a glut of no-hitters in recent baseball history. Thirteen of the 285 no-hitters, the list started by George Bradley, have been pitched in the past three seasons. Seven of them in 2012 and three last year.

...Kershaw is not the normal pitcher. All of L.A. thinks he’s the best in baseball, with talent close to Justin Verlander’s. All of L.A. could be right. The Sabermetricians will figure it out.

But whether this no-hitter was the second best game ever pitched. Who knows?

Statistics!

George Bradley posted some. Best game ever? Sure. For awhile. It was the first no-hitter when the National League — and thus MLB — was established in 1876.

That premier season, Bradley won 45 games and lost 19, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He pitched 573 innings. Apparently, managers did not bother with the pitch count back then. Bradley threw 16 shutouts, including the no-hitter against the Dark Blues. He started 64 games and pitched complete games in 63 of them. He had a 1.23 ERA.

Feed all Bradley’s stats into Bill James’s magic metric mixer and what pops out?

Repoz Posted: June 29, 2014 at 07:09 AM | 38 comment(s)
  Beats: history, sabermetrics

Leitch: Billy Beane’s Ascendant A’s Are Playing a Brand-New Brand of Moneyball

But, but…Harold Reynolds said “the A’s aren’t going to win because they make too many errors.”

Except: The A’s didn’t actually end up trumping anybody. Moneyball the movie and the book are the rare inspirational sports stories that end with a big game … that the little guys lose. And, all told, after Moneyball came out, the A’s went through an eight-year stretch where they made the playoffs only once. This led to some mockery inside the baseball industry, particularly among those scouts so maligned by the book (a book Beane has had to repeatedly point out that he did not, in fact, write). “So much for the genius,” sneered one scout to ESPN in June of the A’s 2009 season, in which the team won only 75 games and finished last in the American League West. “He doesn’t look so smart anymore, does he?”

The strange thing was that Beane’s comeuppance was in fact a result of his success: As with any insurgent, once his tactics became known, they were co-opted by the powerful. Nowadays, every front office in baseball has a stat-head crunching some sort of numbers, many of them in the GM’s office. On-base percentage has gone from an underpriced asset to an overhyped one; even the guys in the broadcast booth are familiar with it now. The Yankees and the Red Sox (at least briefly) became the A’s with money—Beane’s worst nightmare. Which has all landed the A’s right back where they started: as a decrepit franchise with a cheap owner, low revenues, and the worst stadium situation in the game (with the threat of relocation ever hanging above them).

And that is why it’s so deeply satisfying to see, of all teams, those Oakland A’s dominating the baseball world again this year. Beane’s A’s are comfortably atop the American League West—the division they’ve won the past two seasons—and have the best record in Major League Baseball. They’re still in the same stadium, with the same uncertainty, with the same owner. They have the sixth-lowest opening-day payroll in the game. Everyone knows their old tricks. And yet here they are: on top of the baseball world again.

Repoz Posted: June 29, 2014 at 06:44 AM | 15 comment(s)
  Beats: oakland, sabermetrics

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ben Reiter: Astro-Matic Baseball

A must read…

Other criticisms have surfaced more recently. In an article published in the Houston Chronicle on May 25—the day, as it turned out, the Astros began a seven-game winning streak—beat writer Evan Drellich detailed the ways in which, as the headline read, radical ways paint astros as ‘outcast.’ “They are definitely the outcast of major league baseball right now, and it’s kind of frustrating for everyone else to have to watch it,” Norris, who was traded to the Orioles last July 31, told Drellich. “When you talk to agents, when you talk to other players and you talk amongst the league, yeah, there’s going to be some opinions about it, and they’re not always pretty.”

The criticisms fell into two categories. The first was that the Astros’ analytics-based approach dehumanizes players. “It was a difficult thing for me to read, because I spend so much time personally getting to know our players, and so does our staff,” says Luhnow. “There is a perception that anybody who is doing analytics in a serious way is doing that at the expense of the human element. It’s just not true, in our case.”

Adds Mejdal, “We realize these are human beings, not widgets. As far as assigning a number to a person—well, I assume you get a salary? Do you feel dehumanized because your boss has put a number on you?”

The other criticism stemmed from the Astros’ use of new competitive tactics, such as a heavy reliance on extreme defensive shifts. The club’s proprietary database—christened Ground Control by Elias’s wife, Alexandra—contains not just projections of the future value of every player but also spray charts for every hitter on every count against every type of pitch thrown by every type of pitcher, as well as the probabilistically optimal way to position defenders in each scenario. This sometimes leads to shifts in which, say, the Astros’ second baseman plays well to the left of second base against a pull-happy righthanded hitter—a violation of traditional baseball norms, though one that’s becoming more common across the game.

Mejdal puts the Astros’ tactics into perspective. “A year ago, with the defensive positioning that was going on, we were in the top half dozen, and there was tremendous pushback,” he says. “Well, the rate at which we shifted last year, that would be below average in the major leagues now. Innovation, by definition, suggests change will be taking place. If there’s change taking place, it’s not likely going to feel right at first. If it felt right, it would have been done a long time ago.”

The Astros’ leadership bristles at the notion that it thinks it knows how to operate better than anyone else. All it knows is what it believes to represent best long-term practices, based on the information it has acquired and processed. “We’re far from perfect,” Mejdal says. Even what they believe to be optimal decisions often don’t work out. Sometimes a righthanded pull hitter goes the other way. Sometimes players they discard, or decline to draft, turn into stars. “Sometimes you hit on a 16,” Mejdal says, “and if you stayed, you would have won.”

Repoz Posted: June 27, 2014 at 06:03 PM | 27 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, sabermetrics

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Schoenfeld: Mike Trout’s Hall of Fame Timeline

Only if Trout can replicate and not be an old fart at play.

One of the largest debates in Hall of Fame discussion is that of peak vs. longevity. We know neither Trout’s peak numbers, nor his longevity. His body is not one that alludes to an enduring career, and while pessimistic, it’s not far-fetched to think that Trout may already have reached his ceiling. Before we get into hypotheticals, let’s look at where his case stands as of today.

He has produced 24.7 rWAR, and is on pace to end the season with around 30.3 career rWAR. He will be far and away the best player of all time through his age 23 season. Primarily using Jay Jaffe’s JAWS score, which averages a player’s seven-year peak with his career WAR, Trout would lie well below the 57.2 JAWS rating of the average Hall of Fame center fielder. In fact, he would need to increase his JAWS rating nearly 26.9 points in order to be considered even an average Hall player. The Hall of Stats, which combines peak and longevity in terms of WAR and then weights it to a Hall of Fame average of 100, pegs Trout at 54% under the average Hall player in terms of rWAR. Obviously, Trout could not hang up his spikes in October and waltz right into Cooperstown.

However, his case becomes quite interesting when looking at the fact that the weighted average WAR of a Hall of Fame center fielder’s seven-year peak is 44. If he holds pace for the rest of 2014, Trout will have accrued about 70% of the average seven-year peak WAR of a HOF center fielder in only three years. The average career WAR of a Hall of Fame center fielder is 70.4. Trout will have accumulated nearly 45% of the average HOF CF’s career WAR by the time he is 23.

...Now let’s put on our best optimistic hats and say Mike Trout actually improves starting next year. Let’s say he posts four consecutive seasons of 11.0 rWAR. For some historical context, two players in the past 40 years have posted 11+ rWAR, Barry Bonds a few times in the 2000s and Joe Morgan in 1975. Using 2012-2018 as his seven-year peak, he would have a peak rWAR of 73.6, well above the average Hall of Fame CF’s 44. His career rWAR from 2011-2018 that time would be 74.3, just above the average 70.4 career WAR of the Hall of Fame CF. His JAWS rating would be 73.95, an astounding 16.75 points higher than the average HOF CF.

If Trout merely stays steady and produces four more years of 10.0 rWAR, his JAWS rating would still be just under 70, well above-average compared to the average 57.2 rating. If he tumbled one rung down to a consistent 8-win player, his JAWS rating would be 61.95.

Repoz Posted: June 26, 2014 at 10:25 AM | 77 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, sabermetrics

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Weigel: Who Does Bill James Think Will Win the College World Series?

BEHOLD!

Bill James, the father of sabermetrics, created the 10 Commandments of Baseball, which are listed below. These serve as a guide for teams on how to best play the odds and are not an exhaustive list of proper strategy nor are these principles true all of the time, but as general rules of thumb, following these rules can help a team win a lot of baseball games.

6. Thou Shalt Not Count to the Credit of the Pitcher That Which Is Done by His Fielders or by His Hitters, nor Charge Him with Their Failings

The Reason: It’s easier said than done, but in order to properly judge both pitchers and fielders, it’s best to isolate their performances. Studies have shown that pitchers exhibit very little control over the rates at which balls in play are converted into outs, thus it makes more sense to judge pitchers over results that they alone control, namely strikeouts, walks (and hit by pitches), and home runs allowed.

The Measure: Difference in FIP. Fielding Independent Pitching, commonly known as FIP, incorporates these three true results into a formula and then adds a league-dependent constant to put the number on the ERA scale. The constant is irrelevant in looking at the difference between two teams as it is added to both sides, so it will be omitted.

The Winner: Virginia, by 0.56. This is a huge number for a difference in FIP between two elite staffs. Vanderbilt has the edge in strikeouts, 1,228 to 1,076, and fewer home runs, 16 to 22, but their outlandish number of free passes surrendered, 295 to UVA’s 107, really brings them down and places them well behind Virginia in this metric. Look for UVA to stay patient and look to take free bases, especially against Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede tonight.

Repoz Posted: June 25, 2014 at 09:46 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Moura: Angels’ Richards surpasses all sabermetrics expectations

I hadn’t seen a Richards treated this badly since Frank “Cannonball” Richards and that Tsar Howitzer prank!

Very few expected this from him, as sabermetrics help show us. Luckily, they also show us why so few expected it — and how he’s been so much better than expectations.

...There’s also Steamer, ZiPS, and CAIRO, among others. This winter, all of them projected Richards to throw between 139 and 173 innings in 2014 and post an ERA between 3.80 and 4.71. None of them thought he could strike out much more than six batters per nine innings. Essentially, none of them thought he was more than a back-end rotation piece.

Well, it’s June 22, almost half a season, and out of nowhere Richards has unequivocally been one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has struck out 94 in 932/3 innings, while barely raising his walk rate, and recorded a 2.79 ERA. He is on pace to break 200 innings with a start to spare.

...No qualified starting pitcher in the majors has allowed long balls at a lower rate. Remarkably, Richards has not allowed a single homer to a right-handed hitter.

The last time a starting pitcher did that over a full season was Pedro Martinez in 2003. The time before that was Roger Clemens in 1990.

Obviously, Richards isn’t likely to keep that up for the rest of the year, but even so he is in rarefied territory.

Projections are often right, and when they are, we don’t usually notice. But when they’re wrong, like all of them were about Richards, we do.

PECOTA issues percentile projections, kind of like the SAT. They give 90th-percentile projections and 10th-percentile, one for each player, essentially their best- and worst-case scenarios.

Richards’ 90th-percentile projection for 2014 was a 3.62 ERA. He has been significantly better than his best-case scenario, and that sums it up quite nicely.

Will his surge continue? There are projections for that, too. They’re more favorable, now.

Repoz Posted: June 22, 2014 at 09:02 AM | 16 comment(s)
  Beats: angels, sabermetrics

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rantankerous: Prepare your JAWS for a sabermetric WAR

Brian “What We Learned” Tynes vs. George “Hot Reads” Jones. I got through 5:18…and then it was back to my Räjäyttäjät party.

If you don’t know wSB from TMZ, you’re in the right place.

One of those is a baseball statistic and the other is a celebrity news web site. The legitimacy of both is debatable.

In this week’s discussion, George jumps on the sabermetric bandwagon and tries to argue the merits of such nonsensical acronyms as UZR, wOBA, BABIP and OOPS, which are all baseball statistics.

That doesn’t sit well with Brian, who is convinced “this entire sabermetrics thing is one giant OOPS.”

The gauntlet is thrown when the discussion turns into alphabet soup with a rousing game of “Is this a real baseball stat?” Among the contenders are IDL, RFM and DRS. See how well you do against the “expert.”

Repoz Posted: June 21, 2014 at 07:11 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jordan Ellenberg: The Author of How Not to Be Wrong Explains How He Was Wrong

As Horatio Prim once (okay a lot more) said: “Odds bodkins!”

When you write a book called How Not to Be Wrong, you ought to expect to be fact-checked a little. And one of the virtues of the new, data-driven journalism currently in vogue is the habit of going back and checking one’s own old stuff. We’re not supposed to avert our gaze from the howlers in our old columns. We’re supposed to find the mistakes and learn from them.

Overall, my record’s not too bad. Mathematicians over 30 have continued to make major theoretical advances. My criticism of Jonah Lehrer’s scientific sloppiness is looking pretty good. And Stephen Wolfram never did become the world’s most prominent and revolutionary scientist.

But there were some mistakes, too. Here are the three biggest.

Barry Bonds isn’t going to break the home run record. Bonds had 39 home runs in the 88 games making up the first half of the 2001 season, putting him on pace for a record-breaking 72 homers for the year. But I knew the theory of regression to the mean, which reminds us that the league leader in home runs at midseason is likely to have been both good and lucky, and thus isn’t apt to maintain his league-leading pace. Historically, typical league-leaders only hit two-thirds as many home runs in the second half as they did in the first. If that trend held in 2001, Bonds would finish the season with 61 home runs.

In fact, he increased his pace, ending up with 73 home runs and the all-time season record. My reasoning wasn’t bad. It’s just that I’d neglected the possibility that there was another factor besides natural ability and luck that was working in Bonds’ favor.

Thanks to Bill Petti.

Repoz Posted: June 14, 2014 at 04:43 PM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: giants, history, sabermetrics, steroids

Bellone: Travis d’Arnaud is off to the worst start I have ever seen

So when I look at Travis d’Arnaud, the prized prospect the Mets acquired by trading R.A. Dickey, and think about how his lack of performance at the plate stacks up against the myriad poor performers that my favorite baseball team, the Mets, have put before me, I am considering a historical reference of about twenty years, dating back to 1994. And I can say, with some certainty, that d’Arnaud has been the least exciting, worst hitting, prospect I have ever seen.

Travis d’Arnaud has an OPS+ of 57 through 70 games in the big leagues. He is only 25, having appeared in a mere 257 plate appearances. Obviously, both traditionalists and sabermetricians alike would scream for sample size. ‘Let’s see how he looks over 1,000 plate appearances’, we could say. While that is fair, it doesn’t overlook the fact that in those first 70 games, he has been downright awful. The worst. And if we want to consider how often a player starts their career as slow as d’Arnaud and still turns into a good hitter, we have a starting point by his age and limited plate appearances.

Before we consider how d’Arnaud compares historically across baseball, let’s keep our focus on the Mets. Why don’t I remember a player starting as poorly as d’Arnaud in my lifetime? Well, because literally no Mets player with at least 250 plate appearances by their age-25 season has had as bad of a start at the plate since 1994.

...Travis d’Arnaud is a catcher; we shouldn’t overlook the fact that he has done completely the opposite of what the scouting reports suggested he would do. As bad as he has been swinging the bat, he has been as good framing pitches for the Mets’ staff. There is definite value to a catcher who is defensively sound, but that is not what d’Arnaud was brought to New York to do; he would have to be a defensive genius to justify his meager offense.

After batting .180 on the season, with three home runs and nine RBIs, having played, essentially, everyday, the Mets were forced to send d’Arnaud back to the minors (where he has found some recent success). Having watched him play most of those days, I can tell you that he is one of the least exciting prospects I have ever seen. It turns out the numbers back that up.

Thanks to VY.

Repoz Posted: June 14, 2014 at 10:06 AM | 23 comment(s)
  Beats: history, mets, sabermetrics

Monday, June 09, 2014

Jack O’Connell: Don Zimmer, a seat-of-the-pants baseball guy

Zimmer: Dating back to the dawn of baseball time in Hoboken.

In an interview I did with him about 10 years ago after he left the Yankees and began working as a consultant for the Tampa Bay club, Zim told me, “I don’t think I could manage today if it meant relying so much on statistics. Managing is more than just studying stat sheets. I was told that in Boston they had all the managerial candidates play a simulated game on a computer. Can you see me doing that? I would have had to bring my grandkids along to show me how to work the darn thing.”

Zimmer managed four teams in 13 seasons but none officially since 1991, the year he was fired by the Cubs. As recently as 1999, however, Zimmer was an interim manager for the Yankees while Joe Torre was recovering from surgery for prostate cancer. He never had any ideas about going into the dugout for the Rays.

“Oh, I wouldn’t want the headaches managers have today, which includes having every move scrutinized,” Zim said. “`You see it on TV, hear it on the radio, read it in the newspapers. Somebody is using a mathematical equation to prove why the manager made a dumb move. That’s what I don’t like about all these statistics. Sure, they are a part of the game, and they can be helpful obviously in assessing a player’s ability, but you can’t manage games by numbers alone.

“With the Yankees, they would bring all these charts into Joe’s office, and we’d all go over them. You’d see so-and-so is 4-for-6 against so-and-so. Well, he might have gotten those four hits five years ago before [that pitcher] developed an effective new pitch. A manager has to trust his instincts and play hunches on occasion.

“One thing that gets me about all these experts with their statistics is that they are not out there on the mound with the manager when the pitcher is shaking like a leaf and the blood is draining from his face. Show me a statistic that can combat that.

“Managers need to learn what their players can and cannot do, and the good ones are the best judges of their personnel. Go by the numbers, and you’re taking the easy way out. That just gives a manager an alibi. The heck with that. You live with players day in and day out for six, seven months and you learn which ones can handle themselves under pressure. You’re not going to find that on a computer printout.”

Repoz Posted: June 09, 2014 at 07:30 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: history, sabermetrics

Friday, June 06, 2014

Strange but - True!: Sabermetrics

Strange but - True!: Can’t see the Rendlesham Forest for the trees!

Q. Baseball fans, are you a sabermetrician? Have you got a taste for the alphabet soup of statistics being served up in baseball these days?

A. Historically, the holy trinity of baseball stats has been AVG (batting average), HR (home runs) and RBI (runs batted in), says Steve Mirsky in “Scientific American” magazine. Now we also have “sabermetrics,” a term from legendary stat man Bill James, combining “metrics” with an acronym for the Society for American Baseball Research. The term includes statistical measures such as OBP, OPS, UZR and WAR to help evaluate player and team performance and front office strategy. “Sadly,” Mirsky jokes, “sabermetrics does not refer to exactly how far down onto his sword a general manager has to fall if his team underperforms.”

The movie “Moneyball” pitched to a large general audience OBP (“on-base percentage”), meaning “hits plus walks divided by plate appearances” because, as the old baseball adage goes, “A walk is as good as a hit.” But this cannot be true when the hit is a home run, even though the homer counts only like a single for batting average.

A popular way to measure hitting now is OPS (“on-base plus slugging percentage”), which gives more weight to power and hence to scoring. UZR (“ultimate zone rating”) is used to measure defense but has been criticized for its inconsistency.

WAR (“wins above replacement”) purports to figure the number of wins a player adds to his team’s total over that of his replacement. “What is it good for? Perhaps not absolutely nothing, but less than it may appear,” Mirsky quips. More broadly, as another observer put it, “I do not think these baseball stats mean what you think they mean.”

Repoz Posted: June 06, 2014 at 09:06 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Bill James Mailbox

Regarding Tangotiger`s question about fielding luck, I have heard many times that a defence plays well if the pitcher is pitching quickly. So, could Verlander, (and others) be “creating” fielding luck by pitching quickly?

Yeah, well. . .I’d be surprised if you could prove that either true or false. All policemen know that crimes increase during a full moon, only it isn’t true.

HeyBill, in looking back at the 70’s 20-game winners, I wondered if the managers back then weren’t more sympathetic to the drive to win 20, and maybe helped the pitchers by bumping them up in the last couple of weeks. I couldn’t see direct evidence of that, but I did notice this: In 1969 there were nine pitchers that won exactly 20 games, and only two that won exactly 19. In 1970 there were four pitchers that won exactly 20 games, and zero that won exactly 19. In 1971 there were eight pitchers that won exactly 20 games, and only two that won exactly 19. Over those three years that is 21 20-game winners and only four 19-game winners. My premise that managers cut corners more back then didn’t hold up on spot checks, but those numbers seem unlikely to be random, no? And, again at a spot check, I didn’t see evidence that many were shut down, either, accounting for the exactly 20 figure.

Right. In 1964 Tony Cloninger won 19 games. With the Braves leading in the early innings on the last or next-to-last day of the season, his manager—I think it was Bragan—offered to put him in the game to pick up the win, but Cloninger declined, saying that when he won 20 games he wanted it to be legitimate. I once did a study which confirmed your thesis. I looked at the number of pitchers (over a long period of years) winning 23 games, 22 games, 21 games, etc. The number goes down with every step up (that is, fewer 7-game winners than 6-game winners, fewer 8-game-winners than 7-game winners etc.) EXCEPT that there are more 20-game winners than 19-game winners. You can see the same effect at a few other markers. . .for example, more hitters will end up the season at .300 or .301 than at .299, and more hitters will drive in 100 runs than 99. There is some effect such as you speculated.

Looking at Baseball Reference, Willie Randolph and Derek Jeter have pretty comparable career value. Randolph is 36 Wins Above Average and 66 Wins Above Replacement. Jeter is 32 Wins Above Average and 72 Wins Above Replacement. Given that Randolph played 17% fewer games, his per-162 game Wins Above Average is actually 2.6 to Jeter’s 1.9. Randolph was better at getting on base and his lack of power relative to Jeter is more than made up for by his defense. Do you agree with the idea that the two players are/were of roughly comparable value? Virtually all Yankee fans would tell you that this argument is insane, but I fail to see why that is true. It seems like Randolph was a highly underrated player.

I certainly agree that Randolph was a tremendously underrated player. To say anything about Jeter touches a nerve, so. . .you always want to double-check your assumptions before you get into that. But Willie was a terrific player.

Thanks to Elio.

Repoz Posted: June 05, 2014 at 09:13 AM | 17 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

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