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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rob Neyer: AL pitchers feasting on NL?

Have you noticed something strange lately? Seems like every time a starting pitcher does something fantastic, he just happens to be pitching for an American League team against a National League team.

Just my imagination? To check, I scanned ESPN.com’s scoreboard pages, from last Friday through last night’s games, looking for headlines in which the winning starting pitcher was mentioned. I found 15. See if you notice any sort of pattern ...

No, it’s not scientific. No, the list doesn’t include fine games pitched by the likes of National Leaguers Matt Cain and Brad Thompson (or for that matter, American Leaguers Kevin Millwood, A.J. Burnett, Brad Bergesen, and Brian Bannister). But among the 15 starting pitchers who made headlines for winning, 12 made headlines for pitching brilliantly (or near-brilliantly) against National League teams. Jered Weaver threw his first shutout, Luke Hochevar needed only 80 pitches to dispatch Cincinnati, and Gil Meche threw his third shutout in 225 career starts. CLiff Lee took a no-hitter into the eighth, and Felix Rodriguez took a one-hitter into the ninth.

Sure, it’s only 15 games, and 15 games that were subject to the whims of ESPN.com’s headline writers. But I mean, c’mon. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the American Leaguers are playing a different game? A better game?

sigh.

Tripon Posted: June 17, 2009 at 08:54 PM | 226 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: amateur, baseball geeks, history, media, online, projections, rumors, special topics, teams

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Page 3 of 3 pages  < 1 2 3
   201. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:48 AM (#3224485)
I'm getting there. The AL had a good year (or two), like Brady Anderson. Didn't make Brady Anderson better than Frank Thomas in general.

Why are you comparing Brady Anderson to Frank Thomas? It's not like the NL is going 150-100 in interleague every year. The AL is 639-482 since 2005; the Brady Anderson comparison is a joke, at best.
   202. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: June 19, 2009 at 03:50 AM (#3224488)
This is wins. Which league is better? Either? Neither? Due to the closeness of each year (15% or so), and no pattern (I can discern), I'd say they are approximately equal, and these differences are due to just randomness.

Fantastic. You use years-old data without posting which years they are from and ignoring more recent data, and still use the current tense when describing the data.
   203. DKDC Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:15 AM (#3224509)
I'm not so interested in the "Which league is better?" question.

I'm more interested in answering "Why does it bother some NL fans so much that their team is in an inferior league that they will ignore the avalanche of facts that prove the AL is superior?"
   204. Gaelan Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:36 AM (#3224527)
The AL DH advantage theory does not make any sense. If anything the reverse is true. The AL is at a disadvantage. Here's why.

The theory rests upon two facts. AL DH's hit better than NL DH's while NL pitchers do not hit better than AL pitchers. Therefore AL teams have an advantage in interleague games.

This theory ignores a host of other facts that are far more important. Namely ...

1) All MLB teams have the same number of roster spots.
2) These spots cost money to fill.
3) There is no difference in leagues in available money.
3a) Insofar as three may not be entirely true it has nothing to do with the DH.

On this basis I draw the following conclusions.

1) If AL DH's hit better than NL DH's it is because they are paid more.
2) This is money that could be spent on other roster spots.
3) If we hold bench spending constant then in AL parks 100% of available money from both teams will see the field. Therefore there is no advantage to the AL team while playing at home. The advantage they gain by having a better DH should be compensated by the advantage the NL team has by having better players by using the money saved on the DH position.
4) However in NL parks the higher paid AL DH will sit on the bench and therefore 100% of the NL budget will be in play while less of the AL budget will be in play. Therefore the NL team will have an unfair advantage.

All of this is elementary, obvious and irrefutable.*

* With the caveat that the analysis could be fine tuned in any number of ways. For instance if it is true that fans like the DH then AL teams will draw better and hence will have more revenue. In which case the DH will indirectly give them an advantage. However that wasn't the argument. The argument was that the roster rule gave the advantage. This argument is completely fallacious.
   205. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:37 AM (#3224530)
I'm more interested in answering "Why does it bother some NL fans so much that their team is in an inferior league that they will ignore the avalanche of facts that prove the AL is superior?"

I'm an NL fan. It's bad enough that the NL has been playing below the level of the AL the last few years, but it makes it even worse that other NL fans keep making poor arguments about how it's not true. Both because their knee-jerk reflexiveness makes other NL fans look bad, and because I have to keep pointing out (and keep reading others point out) evidence in favor of the AL.
   206. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:39 AM (#3224533)
As an NL fan, my answer to that question is "because calling the NL Quadruple-A is both very funny and very mean, and it makes me defensive".

This. I find Neyer's nickname of "the big boy league" for the AL particularly grating. Also, spurious arguments bother me, and the "Look at Ibanez! (Don't look at Milton Bradley...)" arguments that occasionally come up (not here so much) are about as spurious as they come.

It's pretty clear that the AL is the better league - heck, I spent a decent amount of time compiling home-road data earlier in the thread to support that. But the line between calling the AL the better league and being condescending to the fans of NL teams is pretty thin, and frequently crossed. Which I guess strikes me as a little odd, considering nobody is actually a fan of a league... do Orioles fans take pride in the AL being the better league?
   207. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:47 AM (#3224542)
Which I guess strikes me as a little odd, considering nobody is actually a fan of a league...do Orioles fans take pride in the AL being the better league?


I like the league pride. As a Red Sox fan, I truly wanted the AL to be superior (which it obviously wasn't for most of my childhood), and rooted like hell for the AL in the All-Star game. As such, I loved Monty's answer, and I even like the fact that Dial trades his analyst hat for his crazy fanboy one when the subject comes up.
   208. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:52 AM (#3224545)
Which I guess strikes me as a little odd, considering nobody is actually a fan of a league... do Orioles fans take pride in the AL being the better league?

I'm a fan of the NL. I think most fans whose love for the game predates interleague play have some loyalty to one league or the other.

It's not like I'd be scoreboard-watching on the last day of interleague to see who comes out on top. It doesn't compare to my being a fan of the Padres. But there's still some pride.
   209. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: June 19, 2009 at 04:52 AM (#3224546)
As a Red Sox fan, I truly wanted the AL to be superior (which it obviously wasn't for most of my childhood), and rooted like hell for the AL in the All-Star game.

The All-Star game, sure... I guess interleague feels a little different to me. As a Cubs fan, I have no particular interest in whether the Nats beat the Yankees.
   210. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:01 AM (#3224552)
The All-Star game, sure... I guess interleague feels a little different to me. As a Cubs fan, I have no particular interest in whether the Nats beat the Yankees.


No argument. The individual games don't matter much (and most of us are likely rooting for the opposing league's teams to beat our teams' rivals when it's going on). But when the end-result of interleague play skew a particular way, it's only natural to use that to tout your league of preference's superiority (or try to rationalize it away, as the case might be).

Edit: And one should always be interested in seeing the Yankees lose, regardless who one's favorite team might be.
   211. ValueArb Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:05 AM (#3224556)
Wednesday June 17 ---- Arizona 12 Kansas City 5
Thursday June 18 ---- Arizona 12 Kansas City 5

nice timing there Rob;)
   212. 1k5v3L Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:13 AM (#3224561)
Well, in Rob's defense, the Royals are only "technically" in the AL...
   213. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:13 AM (#3224562)
Edit: And one should always be interested in seeing the Yankees lose, regardless who one's favorite team might be.

This is true, although rooting for the Yankees to lose is at least partially balanced by amusement at the Nats' futility.
   214. McCoy Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:15 AM (#3224564)
So how much better is the average AL team than the average NL team? The answer it seems is "who knows" and the response is to accuse those who are trying to figure out the variables to be defensive NL fanboys.
   215. 1k5v3L Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:16 AM (#3224566)
Well, both of K-rod's blown saves came against AL teams
So by definition the AL teams are infinitely better
   216. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:22 AM (#3224567)
So how much better is the average AL team than the average NL team? The answer it seems is "who knows" and the response is to accuse those who are trying to figure out the variables to be defensive NL fanboys.


I've got no argument with folks trying to figure it out, though many of their efforts seem to start with the idea that the difference isn't that great and trying to find reasons why. But I'm not sure Dial has ever agreed with the premise that the average AL team is/has been better than the average NL team.
   217. cardsfanboy Posted: June 19, 2009 at 05:47 AM (#3224583)
I've got no argument with folks trying to figure it out, though many of their efforts seem to start with the idea that the difference isn't that great and trying to find reasons why. But I'm not sure Dial has ever agreed with the premise that the average AL team is/has been better than the average NL team.

I'm pretty sure that Dial has agreed on some level, but I'm also sure that the difference is overstated. Not negligible, but overstated. And both me and Dial think that it's likely less this year than in previous seasons, or argue that there is not enough data right now to draw a conclusion.
   218. Ron Johnson Posted: June 21, 2009 at 05:17 AM (#3226636)
You're arguing for bias, and proposing the DH as a source of bias that is potentially overwhelming, but we really can't be sure, and it's awfully difficult to study, isn't it?


Not really. Arpad Elo gave us the math. Run two studies for each year. AL home games and NL home games. Factor in home field advantage and any difference in overall rating is the DH factor.
   219. konaforever Posted: June 21, 2009 at 06:38 AM (#3226650)
Not really. Arpad Elo gave us the math. Run two studies for each year. AL home games and NL home games. Factor in home field advantage and any difference in overall rating is the DH factor.


Link to this study?
   220. konaforever Posted: June 21, 2009 at 02:08 PM (#3226695)
Ah. Nevermind. DIdn't see you wanted a study run. Thought you had seen a study already done.
   221. Kirby Kyle Posted: June 21, 2009 at 02:36 PM (#3226709)
Led by the famously weak Nationals, the NL has played the AL to a draw in recent days.
   222. Ron Johnson Posted: June 22, 2009 at 08:53 AM (#3227427)
#222, having proposed the method I'll run the study after the inter-league games are complete.

Speaking of Elo, his work addresses the thrust of many of the points made. The sample size for any given team/year is clearly inadequate to say anything about the strength of any given team. No surprise that team records are all over the map.

Even so, it is adequate to give a general sense of the strength of the leagues.
   223. Tripon Posted: July 06, 2009 at 05:04 AM (#3243036)
So what was the final tally in the NL-AL standings?
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