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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Baseball Equivalent of Hitting on 16 | FanGraphs Baseball

With his history in Seattle, it’s tough not to view Tony Blengino’s criticisms of the Mariners as axe grinding.

This article is not meant to pick on Lloyd McClendon or the Mariners in general. It could have been any number of managers or clubs – it just happened to be this one that did all of these things repeatedly in a single weekend, and lost more than one game as a direct result. Managers have the hardest job in baseball, in my opinion, and game strategy comprises a very small percentage of it. Managers are hired to be leaders of men, who are in this case often millionaires many times over, and are expected to hold their attention and respect for a long, 162-game marathon. I would argue that it is the responsibility of the organization to educate their field personnel about game theory, about the math behind the usage or non-usage of various strategies.

Jim Furtado Posted: April 22, 2014 at 03:35 PM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mariners

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   1. McCoy Posted: April 22, 2014 at 04:11 PM (#4691398)
Not bad of an article. Only one small problem. He doesn't know blackjack. The negative should be standing on 16 and not hitting on 16.
   2. Ron J2 Posted: April 22, 2014 at 04:27 PM (#4691411)
#1 Depends on what dealer's card is (and whether or not you're counting, and number of decks in play even)

Without any count information you should stand on 16 if the dealer has a 2-6.
   3. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 22, 2014 at 04:47 PM (#4691430)
What a ridiculous article, full of the worst tendencies of modern sabermetrics: Blengino thinks that if you have quantified any sort of advantage, that advantage is real and persistent and should be treated as dead-solid correct. He says this about an intentional walk to Giancarlo Stanton:

This move actually increased the Marlins’ win probability by 1%.


If you think a change in win probability of 1% has any validity at all, you're nuts. This is like deciding one player is better than another based on a 0.1 difference in WAR.

Blengino goes on to argue that because the Mariners IBBd Stanton twice, this made him more likely to come up to the plate at the end of the game. And sure enough, he comes up in the ninth and hits a game-winning grand slam - with no one out. If the Mariners had pitched to him and retired him twice, the most plausible scenario is that Stanton bats in the ninth with two outs. And even that is fallacious. In all likelihood, if you pitch to Stanton twice, he's likely to reach base one of those times.

What a joke. No wonder the Mariners have been so terrible.
   4. Sunday silence Posted: April 22, 2014 at 04:59 PM (#4691438)

What a ridiculous article, full of the worst tendencies of modern sabermetrics: Blengino thinks that if you have quantified any sort of advantage, that advantage is real and persistent and should be treated as dead-solid correct.


Isnt that a problem with a lot of statistics in general? They treat these numbers as basically static when in fact the actual abilities and conditions are constantly in flux. A couple of examples...

An NFL game a few years ago, where I guess late in the game Belichek went for it 4th/6?? on his own 30 against Manning/the Colts. Manning I guess was moving the ball at will. I thought it was very risky, but most people thought it was a good call because people dont go for it enuf in the NFL (which prolly true). THen they got into this thing where the proponents started citing what the % is for making it on 4th/6 which I think is close to 50% but just under. It hovers around 50% for a good range e.g. 4th/2 -- 4th/4.

But that % taken by itself does not account for the fact that the defense is not really going to cover any medium to deep routes. they have no reason to. Then protagonists counter that if you dont cover those routes they will throw to the open guy. which is questionable...

Which in reality they probably would not throw med/deep because they would try a safe play. But regardless of that. The pt is that this large sample size statistic that 4th/6 is 40% play overlooks that in this particular situation the defense will SELL OUT to stop the run. They have to; it's their only logical play.

But the proponents act like the probability of stopping this play couldnt possibly change due to anything the defense does. It also overlooks that the data set that produces this stat is produced in an environment where the game might not be on the line and the defense cannot sell out with say 30 min to play or whatever.

So actually a smaller sample size, 4th/6 with min to go, the defense has no reason to stop the pass since it's game over anyway, is actually more relevant the large sample: 4th/6 anytime in the game, most of the time the defense still has reason to stay alive. Two vastly different situations. The defense does not remain static...

Case 2. They constantly point to this study in the NBA that says that shooting % doesnt really change that there is no such thing as "hot" shooter. The study was done by someone noteworthy like Tersky or maybe Stephen Gould or someone.

BUt anyhow, I dont see how a study like that possibly accounts for match ups and double teams. I mean if a team perceives Scotty Pippen to be "hot" they will double up on him, or do other things to change up the defense and make someone else shoot. The bottom line is that you just cant assume the defense is static it is changing to meet the circumstances

So they say "well Pippen shooting % didnt change over the course of x possessions." But in fact it might have been good for a short streak like 4 possessions and then they reset the defense and/or match ups..
   5. cmd600 Posted: April 22, 2014 at 05:09 PM (#4691444)
4 - That 4th down play was for just two yards. And your Bayesian analysis doesn't take into account maybe the most important factor - Belicheck knew there was no way his defense was keeping Manning out of the endzone regardless of what yard line Manning started on.

But I would say that 6 yards is just a bit more than the ideal distance for the offense to have the defense completely clueless as to what the playcall is. The defense would most certainly not "SELL OUT to stop the run".
   6. Willie Mayspedes Posted: April 22, 2014 at 05:12 PM (#4691445)
I haven't read MGL's book but does it take the inning and score into account for bunting or IBB's? Bunting a guy into scoring position in a tie game in the 9th is a very different situation than bunting the leadoff hitter of the game to 2nd with no outs in the 1st (obviously).
   7. Danny Posted: April 22, 2014 at 05:14 PM (#4691450)
If you think a change in win probability of 1% has any validity at all, you're nuts. This is like deciding one player is better than another based on a 0.1 difference in WAR.

Yep. The win expectancy is based on the presumption that Stanton is a league average hitter. Since Stanton is much better than average, the "cost" of pitching to him is higher than WE presumes.

And Fangraphs actually has the change in WE as 0.7%.
   8. McCoy Posted: April 22, 2014 at 05:20 PM (#4691453)
Without any count information you should stand on 16 if the dealer has a 2-6.

IF you read the article the way he uses the term "hitting on 16" is wrong.
   9. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: April 22, 2014 at 05:31 PM (#4691458)
IF you read the article the way he uses the term "hitting on 16" is wrong.

Chad Curtis could teach the author a thing or two about hitting on 16's.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: April 22, 2014 at 06:00 PM (#4691467)
If you think a change in win probability of 1% has any validity at all, you're nuts. This is like deciding one player is better than another based on a 0.1 difference in WAR.

No it's not. I'm going to agree with your general point but this is off. The win probability calculations are based on thousands and thousands and thousands of data points. Somewhere around a sample size of 8,000 or so, the standard error (under the binomial assumption, see below) falls below .5%. Given we're talking data compiled over every game for decades, the sample size underlying the estimate is quire large -- maybe not large enough to give us complete confidence in the difference but almost certainly larger than the sample sizes involved in (the vast majority of) player comparisons.

The better point is the one #4 makes. The binomial distribution assumes that each "trial" is the same (also independent but I'm willing to grant that one). But they aren't. It may or may not make sense to intentionally walk, say, Mike Trout but it certainly makes a lot less sense to walk him with Pujols on-deck than with Freese on-deck. It is virtually unheard of to walk a batter when you have the platoon advantage to set up a PA where you don't have the platoon advantage.

So it's more that to really assess this, you need to assess too many variables (some with high degrees of measurement error) in too short a time (if you're the manager) or with insufficient "local" knowledge (i.e. more measurement error) if you're on the outside. Quality of the hitter you might walk, quality of the on-deck hitter, quality and tiredness of the pitcher, quality/tiredness/readiness of the bullpen, quality/tiredness/readiness of the rest of your pen, quality of available pinch-hitters, follow-on effects (e.g. bringing Stanton up again), GB/FB tendencies of everybody involved, park effects, weather effects, quality of the runners, quality of your OF arms.

To get to win expectancy, it's a probability times an expected outcome times a probability plus the product of two probabilities times an expected outcome times a probability plus the product of three probabilities times an expected outcome times a probability plus ...

So, yes, casual saber folks simplify this down to the simple yes/no -- which is understandable and is not necessarily a bad strategy when required to make a decision on insufficient information. Which is the situation that McClendon was in. On the other hand ... well, I was gonna say the Marlins don't have anybody that can hit besides Stanton but, at the moment, everybody on the Marlins is hitting. I'd still rather face any one of them than Stanton but some of them are young enough I won't say they aren't true good hitters. But anyway, most of the time I'd be fairly happy about walking Stanton to get to a McGehee or Jones or whoever.

We probably do oversell the horrors of the IBB. Unintentional walk rates with men on base and 1B open are much higher than other situations -- pitchers are constantly pitching around good hitters in situations like these and they surely have been for at least all of the liveball era. Greg Maddux walked Bonds 24 times vs. 16 Ks in 157 PA. Not just Bonds -- Luis Gonzalez hit him like a pinata and he was walked 10 times vs 11 Ks. Gwynn hit over 400 against him and Maddux never K'd him in 107 PA but he walked him 11 times, 7 intentional. Greg Maddux, Smartest Pitcher Ever (tm), had no problem with IBBs and UIBBs to tough hitters in key situations.

#4 But most of that is just why football, basketball, etc. are much harder to model than baseball. The interaction between offense and defense is critical and that simply isn't the case in baseball. There's very little the defense can do to shut down Stanton or play him to prevent the HR. And their main weapons are the decision about which pitcher to use and the decision whether to walk him (which does prevent the XBH). BIP, conditional on the batter, are nearly random -- it's pretty much all about batter vs. pitcher. The intentional walk then is sort of like double-teaming Pippen knowing that runs the risk that Paxson is going to beat you.

<i>Which in reality they probably would not throw med/deep because they would try a safe play. <i>

Then the offense is doing it wrong. There is no "safe" play on 4th and 6 at your own 30. An incomplete pass 40 yards downfield is no worse than an incomplete pass 7 yards downfield and not really worse than any play that gains you less than 6 yards. If you're lucky, maybe the db will actually intercept the ball 40 yards downfield.

Now maybe your chances of getting the first down are maximized by having everybody run a short route but you'd think that at a minimum you have to go deep occasionally just to keep them honest. Also, if your offense has been having trouble moving the ball, it's not clear that a first and ten at your 36 is worth very much -- if you need points, you need to get downfield.
   11. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: April 22, 2014 at 06:15 PM (#4691477)
FTA:

In no other sport is a game strategy repeatedly undertaken that has a measurably negative effect on that team’s chances of winning.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's not true. Football coaches regularly make decisions that lower their win probability.
   12. vortex of dissipation Posted: April 22, 2014 at 06:25 PM (#4691485)
In no other sport is a game strategy repeatedly undertaken that has a measurably negative effect on that team’s chances of winning.


Was that written before or after Manchester United fired David Moyes?
   13. KT's Pot Arb Posted: April 22, 2014 at 06:36 PM (#4691495)
If you think a change in win probability of 1% has any validity at all, you're nuts. This is like deciding one player is better than another based on a 0.1 difference in WAR.


We can debate all day about whether it's really 1% or not, but 1% is very significant. A team with an average win expectancy of 50% would go 81-81, with an an expectation of 51% works out to close to 83-79. Most research finds the difference between managers is usually only a few wins per
year, someone who IBB the wrong player in the wrong situation 100 times a year loses one win from that decision alone.
   14. KT's Pot Arb Posted: April 22, 2014 at 06:37 PM (#4691496)
And the correct answer is you never hit on 16, regardless of the situation, if you still want to remain married.
   15. McCoy Posted: April 22, 2014 at 06:39 PM (#4691499)
someone who IBB the wrong player in the wrong situation 100 times a year loses one win from that decision alone.

And no one IBB walks the wrong player in the wrong situation 100 times a year and it isn't even close to that amount.
   16. KT's Pot Arb Posted: April 22, 2014 at 07:00 PM (#4691511)
Ok, 30, 64 times a year, what's your point? It's still very significant over the course of a season when it's a single decision type out of dozens of decisions managers regularly make. Give up a third of a win a year on a dozen of them and you substantially impact a teams playoff chances.
   17. Moeball Posted: April 22, 2014 at 08:36 PM (#4691569)
4 - That 4th down play was for just two yards. And your Bayesian analysis doesn't take into account maybe the most important factor - Belicheck knew there was no way his defense was keeping Manning out of the endzone regardless of what yard line Manning started on.


To me, the most incredible part of that scenario in how it played out was this - Belichek knew that if he got the first down, he had a good chance to run out the clock and win the game - and his offense had done well in this game so he was extremely confident they would get the first down. Even if he didn't get the first down, however, there were like 2+ minutes to go in the game and he figured as hot as Manning was that the Colts would probably get in the end zone quickly to take the lead (a field goal wouldn't have been enough for the Colts, they needed the touchdown). Even if the Colts scored to take the lead, Belichek was figuring on having at least a minute to a minute and a half left in the game to go down and get a field goal, a reasonable assumption under the circumstances, I think, with Brady also having a pretty good game.

What Belichek didn't count on was that Peyton took the full 2+ minutes to get the touchdown. His clock management was absolutely brilliant as the Colts punched it in for the TD with only 1 or 2 seconds left on the clock so there was no time left for Brady to do his magic.

There are many things to criticize Peyton Manning about - his flaws have been abundantly dissected over the years, never more so than after the fiasco loss to Seattle this past February - but clock management is clearly one of his strengths and I can't think of many QBs I've seen over the years that could run that part of the game any better.
   18. Depressoteric Posted: April 22, 2014 at 08:51 PM (#4691580)
And the correct answer is you never hit on 16, regardless of the situation, if you still want to remain married.
Underrated post.
   19. Moeball Posted: April 22, 2014 at 09:00 PM (#4691585)
As to baseball in-game strategy, I would once again take this moment to recommend the book Hidden Game of Baseball (Pete Palmer, John Thorn) to anyone who hasn't yet read it.

What Palmer did, in his capacity as official American League statistician in the early 1980s, was this - he got access to every official scoresheet available for every single game - AL or NL from 1901 to 1983. Then he fed the play-by-plays into the computer.

What the computer spit out was the sort of stuff we think of as logical today but that not too many people were thinking about at the time - in a sample size of thousands upon thousands of games, with dozens of plays per game - in other words, a fairly significant sample size - the following patterns started to emerge:

1)The one receiving the most publicity, of course, was that teams that utilize the sac bunt a lot score fewer runs in general than teams that don't and therefore also win a lower % of games. The reason for this is that although the sac bunt increases the % chance of scoring the one run you're trying to manufacture, it also decreases the chance of having a multiple-run inning because you are literally handing the opposing team an easy out, and the overall decrease in the big-inning runs is greater than the increase in the single runs
2)The exception to pattern 1)also makes sense, however - in the late innings of a close game - say, the 9th inning of a game tied 2-2 - in this situation the sac bunt is advantageous because it increases the chances of getting one run - and one run is all you need to win the game.
3)Teams that issue a lot of intentional walks generally allow more runs and lose a higher % of games than teams that do not use this strategy a lot.

Palmer conceded, however, that there are many factors involved in issuing an intentional walk - who is the next batter up? Is there a lefty/righty matchup involved? What's the bullpen situation? Are there fresh relievers available that could change the matchups to your advantage? All of these factors could influence a manager to think "No, I don't want any part of this batter given what could happen next" or to think that he'd rather take his chances with the batter in this situation.

   20. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 22, 2014 at 09:21 PM (#4691597)
The pt is that this large sample size statistic that 4th/6 is 40% play overlooks that in this particular situation the defense will SELL OUT to stop the run. They have to; it's their only logical play.


The Patriots passed the ball on that play.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: April 22, 2014 at 09:31 PM (#4691605)
The IBB decision made easy:

Is Jim Thome coming up with the game on the line?
If yes, do you have a RHP on the mound?
If yes, you have three choices -- pitch to Thome and lose 99.9% of the time, walk Thome, or bring in a lefty (or Mariano Rivera).

Corollary: Don't get cute and ask your RHP to "give him nothing to hit." Be a man and put the walk on your own shoulders.

On other managerial topics:

The pitching change decision made easy:

Are you Grady Little? If yes, don't change pitchers.
Are you Dusty Baker? If yes, do change pitchers.

Is this the optimal lineup?

Do you manage a saber-aware team? If yes, the answer is maybe but it will please your bosses if you play who the geeks say.
Do you manage a non-saber team? If yes, the answer is maybe but it will please your bosses if you play who your gut says.
Do you manage the Cardinals? If yes, it doesn't matter because you're always going to ####### win no matter what losers you have in your lineup.

   22. Walt Davis Posted: April 22, 2014 at 09:35 PM (#4691607)
On my football point, I misunderstood the scenario. 4th and 2, 2 minutes left with the lead .... there's not much reward in the offense trying to go deep there. I thought it was earlier in the game and the team with the ball was behind.

   23. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 22, 2014 at 09:46 PM (#4691615)
No it's not. I'm going to agree with your general point but this is off. The win probability calculations are based on thousands and thousands and thousands of data points. Somewhere around a sample size of 8,000 or so, the standard error (under the binomial assumption, see below) falls below .5%. Given we're talking data compiled over every game for decades, the sample size underlying the estimate is quire large -- maybe not large enough to give us complete confidence in the difference but almost certainly larger than the sample sizes involved in (the vast majority of) player comparisons.


I stand by my original statement. Baseball is far too complicated to be reduced like this. How can you have a sample size of 8000 when every single play, every single situation, is unique? Does the model account for whether the Mariners defense was stronger on the left side than the right side, and thus more likely to play good defense against a right handed pull hitter? Does it account for who's left in the Mariners' bullpen late in the game? Does it account for how many pitches the Mariners' starter had thrown, and how this was likely to affect his control? Does it account for how well Stanton is likely to hit against a pitcher like Chris Young? Stanton has destroyed Young in the past, by the way, although in just 7 PAs.

You can say none of that is very important, but you add it all up, and isn't it likely it could move the needle by at least 1 percent?
   24. McCoy Posted: April 22, 2014 at 10:59 PM (#4691652)
Ok, 30, 64 times a year, what's your point? It's still very significant over the course of a season when it's a single decision type out of dozens of decisions managers regularly make. Give up a third of a win a year on a dozen of them and you substantially impact a teams playoff chances.

My point is that the manager walks the wrong person at the wrong time maybe a dozen times a year at worst. .3 wins is going to substantially affect the playoff chances of a team? Of whom? As sort of mentioned in the article there is a bunch of other stuff a manager needs to do that is far more important than these decision and affect the standings much more. Plus it is also possible that in some other in game decision making the manager did better than expected and it wipes out the losses.
   25. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: April 23, 2014 at 03:59 AM (#4691708)
The Seattle pair of Jack Z and Tony B seem like a couple of east coast blowhard charlatans.
   26. Sunday silence Posted: April 23, 2014 at 07:46 AM (#4691725)

#4 But most of that is just why football, basketball, etc. are much harder to model than baseball. The interaction between offense and defense is critical and that simply isn't the case in baseball. There's very little the defense can do to shut down Stanton


Well, in general baseball ABs seem to be independent of one another, for the most part, while in basketball and football the changing strategies tend to impact the value of offensive choices much more. So OK I agree.

But the pt of my post was to give examples where the assumption that some statistic would remain a static property was dubious. It wasnt really about baseball AB per se. But a more general take on stat analysis.

Also the context does effect AB in baseball some. Batting average with men aboard increase, as do errors. It's not large because nothing in baseball is ever large, but it probably has repercussions on for example linear weight values we assign to plays defenders make or do not make. If errors/hits cluster or bunch up, even slightly, it will throw those the run value of an event off.

****

SOrry I messed up the Belichek thing, it was 4th and 2. But the pt. was the assumption in all the pro Belichek arguments was that the % of making this would remain at >50%, which would only be true if the defense was acting like it always would in those situations. But in this particular case the defense would sell out to stop the run as they had much less reason to stop then the pass then they would in a normal 4th/2.
   27. Sunday silence Posted: April 23, 2014 at 07:58 AM (#4691727)
So, yes, casual saber folks simplify this down to the simple yes/no -- which is understandable and is not necessarily a bad strategy when required to make a decision on insufficient information. Which is the situation that McClendon was in


Walt, can you amplify on this? I dont get what is meant by a "simple yes/no." Isnt the basic issue to IBB him or not? It's hard to understand what further "granularity" or whatever that a manager can add to this. It sounds like you are saying that the manager has more choice then either IBB or not, but I dont see how.

It's also not understood what you mean "the situation that McLendon was in." Was there something particular that day that made this sort of stat. analysis even less useful than other days? Quite often, managers are faced with this decision, maybe not routine, but it's not an unusual situation. And the variables that go into it are basically the same ones each time. You write this like there was something going on that day, that effects the usual analysis.


You have an expansive writing style which I like, but then sometimes you just gloss over things (probably because you already understand them) and it's very hard for the reader to understand what you are getting at.
   28. Sunday silence Posted: April 23, 2014 at 08:14 AM (#4691735)

I stand by my original statement. Baseball is far too complicated to be reduced like this. How can you have a sample size of 8000 when every single play, every single situation, is unique?


I think it's just confusing by the way Walt wrote it, not that he is missing your pt. Because in the next para he seems to be acknowledging what you say because he agrees with the pt. that all these variables are in flux at the same time, he seems to account for exactly what you are saying.

But in the first para, I think he is saying that the 1% is significant by itself because the sample size that produced it is large enuf to have confidence in that, AS STARTING PT for the analysis. And then to look at many smaller components and see where that leads to modify the analysis.

I dont think he is missing your pt at all. It's just sort of odd the way he wrote it, he starts off as if he is defending the 8000 data pt. simply answer: dont IBB; but then he goes on starts the minutia analysis, which runs counter to that.

SOmetimes you need to lead the reader by the nose and explain to them like they are five years old, I guess.
   29. Pirate Joe Posted: April 23, 2014 at 09:12 PM (#4692722)
SOrry I messed up the Belichek thing, it was 4th and 2. But the pt. was the assumption in all the pro Belichek arguments was that the % of making this would remain at >50%, which would only be true if the defense was acting like it always would in those situations. But in this particular case the defense would sell out to stop the run as they had much less reason to stop then the pass then they would in a normal 4th/2.



Which is why the Patriots passed the ball.

We have college football season tickets and sit high enough up that you get a really good view of the whole field and what the defenses are doing on any given play. It is my contention that on fourth and short teams should almost always throw a play action pass because of the way so many defenses sell out to stop the run. Of course that assumes you have a decent quarterback that you think will throw a good pass, but that wasn't a problem that the Patriots were facing with Tom Brady at quarterback. Their problem was the pass they called didn't take advantage of a potential match up advantage with the Colts possibly selling out to stop the run (I say possibly because I admit that I don't know what defense the Colts were playing and what coverage the Colts were in).


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