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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Predicting the 2007 Playoffs

Back in May 2004, Vinay Kumar published an article at The Hardball Times web site “So Billy, What Does Work in the Playoffs?” about how regular season statistics for a team could forecast its chances of success in the postseason. Last season, with my old hometown team the Tigers in the playoffs, I updated Vinay’s discoveries, and kept going right through to the World Series.

Given the chance to play prognosticator for 2007, I’ve dusted off the old spreadsheet and checked how this year’s playoff teams might be likely to fare.


The Categories


Vinay used 30 categories in his original research. But rather than using the data straight up, he used minimum splits between two teams in order to eliminate

about half of the results, to ensure that the data only reflected when a team had distinct advantage over its opponent. I’ve calculated a winning percentage

for each category, first with Vinay’s original research, and then incorporating the subsequent playoff results.


Team totals:			Vinay’s 2003 research	adding 2004-6
Won-lost record (+5 wins)			.563			.581
Runs Scored/Runs Allowed (+0.1)		        .516			.537

Batting records:
Runs scored total				.387			.415
Batting average					.455			.447
On-base percentage				.455			.452
Slugging percentage				.400			.459
Doubles					        .394			.435
Triples						.515			.442
Home runs					.382			.476
Batter walks					.500			.512
Batter strikeouts (fewer)			.688			.587
Stolen bases					.581			.512
Stolen base attempts (more)			.581			.545
Net stolen bases 				.429			.378
Stolen base percentage			        .389			.306
Caught stealing (fewer)				.364			.378

Pitching records:
Runs allowed					.647			.605
ERA						.606			.565
Pitchers strikeouts				.581			.568
Pitchers walks (fewer)				.469			.541
Hits allowed (fewer)				.727			.732
Home runs allowed (fewer)			.645			.588
Complete games				        .611			.628
Pitchers shutouts				.667			.636
Saves						.455			.457
Saves by team leader				.545			.558
Bullpen ERA					.471			.500

Fielding records:
Errors committed (fewer)			.706			.643
Defensive efficiency				.594			.699
Fielding double plays				.455			.489

As one can see, things haven’t quite stayed the same. Pitching and speed categories have lost ground, whereas power and fielding categories have gained. The

biggest improvement has come in the effect of defensive efficiency, the biggest loss to batter strikeouts.

I like to divide the categories into strong and weak ones, depending on whether teams holding the advantage have won more than half the series.

Here are the strong categories:

Hits allowed

Defensive efficiency

Errors committed (fewer)

Pitchers’ shutouts

Complete Games

Runs allowed

Home runs allowed (fewer)

Batter strikeouts (fewer)

Won-lost record

Pitcher strikeouts

ERA

Saves by team leader

Stolen base attempts

Pitcher walks (fewer)

Runs Scored/Runs allowed

Let’s carry this information forward and profile the 2007 Divisional Series.

New York Yankees vs. Cleveland

New York’s powerful offense gives them a clear advantage in overall totals, leading in ten categories compared with Cleveland’s. However, Cleveland have a

clear advantage in the strong categories, five to one. Nor is this the first time the Bronx Bombers have relied on dominance in the weak categories to carry

them through. The result has been two first-round exits, and the catastrophe of 2004. I’d expect more of the same, to be honest.

Yankees’ advantages
Runs Scored

Batting Average

On-Base Percentage

Slugging Percentage

Doubles

Triples

Batter strikeouts

Stolen bases

Stolen base percentage

Cleveland advantages
Runs allowed

ERA

Pitcher walks

Complete games

Shutouts

Saves

Saves by team leader

Bullpen ERA

PREDICTOR PICK: CLEVELAND.

Cover my a**e comment: The Yankees beat a similarly advantaged Twins’ team in 2004.

Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona

The Diamondbacks are the sabermetric enigma for 2007. Are they good enough to beat the Cubs? Lacking much in the way of offense, and with some reliance on

team speed, one would be inclined to suspect the worst. The Cubs, meanwhile, are not an offensive powerhouse either, but have some gap power as opposed to

home run clout, which I find a little surprising in the friendly confines. Arizona has the overall lead, ten to eight, but in the strong categories it’s a

dead heat at five apiece. However, the Cubs have the advantage in the top two categories of Hits allowed and Defensive efficiency.

Cubs’ advantages

Runs scored/runs allowed

Batting average

On-base percentage

Doubles

Batter strikeouts

Pitcher strikeouts

Hits allowed

Defensive efficiency


Arizona advantages


Win-Loss record

Triples

Net stolen bases

Stolen-base percentage

Complete games

Shutouts

Saves

Saves by team leader

Errors

Double plays


PREDICTOR PICK: CHICAGO CUBS

Cover my a**e comment: You could toss a coin for this series. It’s one of the most evenly balanced I’ve seen.


Boston vs Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Boston’s dominance of this series is remarkable in itself. It has the advantage in fourteen categroies, compared to the Angels’ advantage in but three. Not

only that, but it controls the top three of Hits allowed, Defensive efficiency and Errors.


Boston advantages

Runs scored/runs allowed

On-base percentage

Slugging percentage

Doubles

Triples

Home Runs

Batter walks

Stolen base percentage

Caught stealing

Runs allowed

Hits allowed

Pitcher shutouts

Bullpen ERA

Errors

Defensive efficiency


Angels’ advantages


Batter strike outs

Stolen bases

Stolen base attempts


PREDICTOR PICK: BOSTON RED SOX

Cover my a**e comment: Upsets happen.

Philadelphia vs. Colorado

The battle of the batters’ ballparks throws up the sweetest of ironies. The representative from Coors Field, legendary for helping the hitter, finds itself

on top by eleven categories to eight thanks to its superior pitching. However, looking at the strong categories suggests that this series could be quite

one-sided.


Philadelphia advantages

Doubles

Triples

Home Runs

Batter Walks

Stolen bases

Stolen base percentage

Caught stealing

Pitcher strikeouts


Colorado advantages


Batter strike outs

Runs allowed

ERA

Pitcher walks

Hits allowed

Home runs allowed

Pitcher shutouts

Bullpen ERA

Errors

Defensive efficiency

Double plays


PREDICTOR PICK: COLORADO ROCKIES


Cover my a**e comment: Philadelphia’s home field advantage might help them, because they’ve taken more advantages of their home park’s tendencies during the

regular season.

Peering Further Ahead

On paper, no-one is going to stop the Red Sox. They roll over the Indians almost as easily as they outclass the Angels. The Yankees haven’t got the pitching while the Red Sox have almost as good an offense.

The National League is a lot more tricky.  If the Padres had made the playoffs, then I think the Padres would have looked like the team to beat the Diamondbacks. However, if the Cubs go through, I don’t know that either of the remaining NL West teams could stop them.

A Red Sox vs. Cubs series – a portent of the End of Time and the Last Things?

fra paolo Posted: October 02, 2007 at 07:21 PM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Mister High Standards Posted: October 02, 2007 at 07:45 PM (#2556538)
Thanks for sharing Fra, I really liked Vinay's orginal work - it's nice to have some other data points added. It's a lot more interesting than: luck luck luck luck and well... luck.
   2. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 02, 2007 at 07:53 PM (#2556549)
A Red Sox vs. Cubs series – a portent of the End of Time and the Last Things?


Ah, the Red Sox just won one 3 years ago, no portent there. I'm rooting for Cubs-Indians, longest World Championship drought in each league now. My dad was 13 when his hometown Indians last won the World Series. His dad was 10 when the Cubs did.
   3. Dr. Vaux Posted: October 02, 2007 at 08:03 PM (#2556566)
Me too, but I doubt it'll happen. We'll get the Yankees against the Phillies.
   4. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: October 02, 2007 at 08:18 PM (#2556588)
I just read a bit in B-Pro's "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over" (highly recommended) and they have a bit on does having a fast start matter. They say it does and note that teams that get off to a fast start and then flounder (relatively speaking) the rest of the year before making the playoffs tend to do a damn good job brushing off the cobwebs in October. Examples were the 2000 Yanks, 2005 ChiSox, 1984 Tigers, and both 2006 teams. From my own memory, I'd add the 1955 Dodgers.

Their research should be good news to any Red Sox fans out there on the blogosophere.
   5. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: October 02, 2007 at 08:23 PM (#2556599)
Maybe I'll check that bbok out from the library. I flipped through some of it in the bookstore and didn't really see anything new, but I may've looked at the wrong pages.
   6. 1k5v3L Posted: October 02, 2007 at 08:24 PM (#2556603)
I think a repeat of the 2001 world series would be fun to watch :)
   7. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: October 02, 2007 at 08:28 PM (#2556610)
EWK,

The section I'm referring to is a brief essay right after their piece on the 1984 AL West pennant race.
   8. 1k5v3L Posted: October 02, 2007 at 08:28 PM (#2556613)
I'd proffer that, right now, the Dbacks and Cubs are at least equal in terms of defensive efficiency. The Dbacks have an excellent defensive outfield in Byrnes/Young/Salazar or Upton, Drew + Ojeda + Snyder are solid up the middle, and Reynolds + Jackson/Clark are at least average in the corners.
   9. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: October 02, 2007 at 08:37 PM (#2556629)
I'd scoff at this if it didn't precisely capture my gut feelings as well about the Red Sox vs. the AL field, and even the Indians vs. Yankees. Anything can happen, blah blah, but no way I would bet money on the Yankees to get out of the first round, especially when you consider that they're probably big Vegas favorites.
   10. scareduck Posted: October 02, 2007 at 08:46 PM (#2556650)
Waiting for Shredder to ##### about how Kumar is just a whiner. 3... 2... 1 ...
   11. mcopeland Posted: October 02, 2007 at 08:56 PM (#2556665)
Very interesting stuff. I think it might be helpful to have the "strong" categories marked for each matchup. (I kept having to scroll back up to the top to see which ones they were.)
   12. Los Angeles Waterloo of Black Hawk Posted: October 02, 2007 at 09:49 PM (#2556789)
Rob, Vinay didn't write this article.
   13. scareduck Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:00 PM (#2556815)
Does it matter? Anything that casts doubt on the Angels is enough to get Seitz going. He doesn't have any arguments of his own, refuses to try and refute others' research, just idiotic fanboyism and an itch to demand of others (read: me) that they STFU unless they have something nice to say.
   14. Shredder Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:15 PM (#2556837)
Your descent into whiny little ######## has really been quite fascinating to watch. Sad, but fascinating.
Rob, Vinay didn't write this article.
Accuracy has never been one of Rob's strong suits.
   15. Shredder Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:15 PM (#2556838)
########
That would be "b!+chdom"
   16. Buddha Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:33 PM (#2556866)
Does it matter? Anything that casts doubt on the Angels is enough to get Seitz going. He doesn't have any arguments of his own, refuses to try and refute others' research, just idiotic fanboyism and an itch to demand of others (read: me) that they STFU unless they have something nice to say.


That may be the most inaccurate description of Shredder since the last time someone said he was cool.
   17. McCoy Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:34 PM (#2556868)
Thanks for doing this. I was hoping somebody would do this and I am glad I didn't have to. Thanks for saving me the time.
   18. Guapo Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:38 PM (#2556872)
I flipped a coin and came up with the following:

Angels
Indians
Cubs
Phillies

The coin thinks the Angels will beat the Cubs in the World Series.
   19. Buddha Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:40 PM (#2556877)
That coin is so biased. You can't trust the coin.
   20. cseadog Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:52 PM (#2556887)
So, does this mean that pitching and defense win championships?
Maybe these SABR types are onto something.
   21. scareduck Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:55 PM (#2556890)
Your descent into whiny little ######## has really been quite fascinating to watch. Sad, but fascinating.

I thought the Angels were no match for the Red Sox back in 2004, too. Was I a "whiny little ########" then, too? If there's been anyone who's changed around here, it's you, Seitz. You call names, you hide behind your smirking one-liners, but you don't have a thing to add to any analysis of the Angels.
   22. scareduck Posted: October 02, 2007 at 10:56 PM (#2556893)
That may be the most inaccurate description of Shredder since the last time someone said he was cool.

You haven't been reading him lately, then.
   23. RobertMachemer Posted: October 02, 2007 at 11:05 PM (#2556899)
Here's the thing: how different is this from Bill James's Postseason Prediction thingy? It's basically found the same way, right? And though that had something like a 70% record at predicting success at the time he created it, it has been more or less .500 afterwards. Why should the above be any different?
   24. McCoy Posted: October 02, 2007 at 11:17 PM (#2556908)
Straight from my arse hairs prediction:
Cubs vs Dbacks: Cubs in 4.

Phillies vs Rockies: Phillies in 5

Yankees vs Indians: Yankees in 4

Red Sox vs Angels: Angels in 4

Cubs vs Phillies: Cubs in 6

Angels vs Yankees: Angels in 5

Angels vs Cubs: Cubs in 7
   25. Shredder Posted: October 02, 2007 at 11:31 PM (#2556917)
You haven't been reading him lately, then.
Yeah, I've been much cooler lately.
Was I a "whiny little ########" then, too?
No, you were much more rational then, which is why fewer people gave you crap. You were interesting to read. Read your own damn comments. I'm not the only who feels this way. I'm just the only one who calls you out on it. You also didn't go apesh!t and delete posts that you disagreed with back then.

And analysis? You mean reproducing other peoples' posts and saying "I agree". That's pretty impressive. Though I noticed things in Blackhawk's post that you would never write anymore, such as:
This is a good team
and
Obviously, an Angel victory is possible, and a reasonable possibility
And I'm still waiting for his post where he whines about Jered Weaver throwing too many pitches over six shutout innings, and offers the wonderfully generous compliment "I won't say he failed to do his job".

And really, when it comes to analysis, this was quite impressive:
As Bootcheck showed today, the middle of the bullpen is just soft and creamy filling for the other club's offensive parts, so why bother showing up?
Yes, as that guy who won't pitch in the post-season, and will lucky to even be on the roster showed, the Angel players who won't be in the playoffs aren't that great. That's quite a keen insight you have. Or how about this beauty from June 28th:
but it doesn't mask the facts that (a) the offense stinks, and (b) the offense has masked some pretty abysmal pitching over the last couple weeks (see also, the Astros and Pirates series).
For those that didn't quite get that, the offense, which stinks, has been good enough to make up for some really awful pitching. Remember, this is the really crappy offense that finished fourth in the AL.

Why bother showing up, indeed. There's plenty of us who wish you wouldn't.
   26. rr Posted: October 02, 2007 at 11:40 PM (#2556926)
What's up with Shredder and scareduck? Can't all Angel fans unite to stop the Evil Empires?
   27. Bernal Diaz has an angel on his shoulder Posted: October 02, 2007 at 11:46 PM (#2556934)
Posted: October 02, 2007 at 07:40 PM (#2556926)
What's up with Shredder and scareduck? Can't all Angel fans unite to stop the Evil Empires?


Hunter green, right

Hunter green, left
   28. Los Angeles Waterloo of Black Hawk Posted: October 02, 2007 at 11:55 PM (#2556941)
Nope, that joke's not funny over here, either.
   29. scareduck Posted: October 03, 2007 at 12:14 AM (#2556960)
#25: perfect examples of the kind of crap I've put up with in my comments sections all frackin' year. Pitch efficiency doesn't matter, says the mighty Seitz. Pulling crap out of your ass like, "as that guy who won't pitch in the post-season" about Bootcheck when you have no damned idea if he will or won't. Got any more strawmen to flog, Seitz?
   30. scareduck Posted: October 03, 2007 at 12:25 AM (#2556967)
   31. Matt Welch Posted: October 03, 2007 at 12:35 AM (#2556976)
GET A ROOM.
   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 03, 2007 at 12:38 AM (#2556980)
Hillary has just announced her own playoff predictions:

Yanks-Indians: Good competititive series. Jacobs Field serves excellent brownies, made from my husband's secret recipe.

Red Sox-Angels: This could go either way. I have lots of friends in both camps, but Bill Buckner and Donnie Moore* favor Obama.

Cubs-Diamondbacks: I grew up as a Cubs and Yankees fan, but you can't overlook the beauty of the Grand Canyon.

Rockies-Phillies: I firmly believe in a woman's right to choose between these two historic teams, and if you don't like it, I'll think about it.

EDIT: I have just been informed that Donnie Moore has passed away. I regret this mistake on the part of someone else, and send my condolences to his widow.

EDIT: Never mind.
   33. Shredder Posted: October 03, 2007 at 12:40 AM (#2556981)
I'd like to note that:
Pitch efficiency doesn't matter, says the mighty Seitz.
Is followed shortly thereafter by:
Got any more strawmen to flog, Seitz?
Wow. That is a lack of self-awareness the likes of which one rarely sees.
   34. scareduck Posted: October 03, 2007 at 02:02 AM (#2557055)
Wow. That is a lack of self-awareness the likes of which one rarely sees.

Except from you, Seitz. Except from you.
   35. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: October 03, 2007 at 02:33 AM (#2557077)
How do you like the feedback, fra paolo?
   36. gay guy in cut-offs smoking the objective pipe Posted: October 03, 2007 at 02:33 AM (#2557078)
I'd like to see a Cubs-Indians series. But, honestly, I won't really mind any combination that doesn't include the Red Sox, the Yankees, or the Diamondbacks. Sorry, guys. Just seem a little too much of you lately.
   37. philistine Posted: October 09, 2007 at 08:05 AM (#2569542)
So fra paolo's 3 for 4, with the missing one being the series he was least confident about:

Cover my a**e comment: You could toss a coin for this series. It’s one of the most evenly balanced I’ve seen.

If I had been betting on this, I'd have gone for four triples and a quadruple (ABC, ABD, ACD, BCD and ABCD). So I'd have lost four bets and won one, but I figure I'd have won more that way than by betting on each series individually. I didn't check the odds beforehand.

So, fra, from your comments, it looks like you're picking the Red Sox to go all the way. Who are you tipping to meet them in the World Series?
   38. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: October 09, 2007 at 08:33 AM (#2569545)
24. McCoy Posted: October 02, 2007 at 07:17 PM (#2556908)
Straight from my arse hairs prediction:
Cubs vs Dbacks: Cubs in 4.

Phillies vs Rockies: Phillies in 5

Yankees vs Indians: Yankees in 4

Red Sox vs Angels: Angels in 4


Now there's a swing and a miss!
   39. fra paolo Posted: October 10, 2007 at 09:18 PM (#2571217)
So, fra, from your comments, it looks like you're picking the Red Sox to go all the way. Who are you tipping to meet them in the World Series?

I've updated all the data, and compared the Championshp Series' contenders.

First, though, I'd like to say that the 2007 Divisional Series in all cases showed that having an advantage in the strong categories is more important than a lead in all categories. The Yankees were just ahead of the Indians overall, ten to seven, but lagged in the strong categories, three to five. The Cubs and Diamondbacks were level in the strong categories with five each, but the Diamondbacks had the lead overall, ten to eight.

So, with that to inform us, let's look at each series.

<u>Boston vs Cleveland</u>
Boston is the clear leader in both the strong and the overall categories. They have five strong to the Indians' two, and a big fifteen to three lead overall. (Bold = strong)

BOSTON
Runs scored/runs allowed ratio
Batting average
On-base percentage
Doubles
Triples
Batter walks
Batter strikeouts
Net stolen bases
Stolen base percentage
Fewer caught stealing
Pitcher strikeouts
Hits allowed
Shutouts
Bullpen ERA
Defensive efficiency

CLEVELAND
Pitcher walks
Complete games
Double plays

<u>Arizona vs Colorado</u>
These two teams are flat out even with eight apiece overall, but Arizona has a significant lead in the strong categories, four to two.

ARIZONA
Triples
Net stolen bases
Stolen base percentage
Pitcher strikeouts
Complete games
Shutouts
Saves
Saves by team leader

COLORADO
Runs scored/runs allowed ratio
Runs scored
Batting average
On-base percentage
Doubles
Batter walks
Fielder errors
Double plays

So it looks like the better bet is on a Boston vs Arizona World Series.
   40. fra paolo Posted: October 10, 2007 at 09:21 PM (#2571225)
Whoops, the Red Sox have six. Where's the edit function when you need it?
   41. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: November 22, 2007 at 01:22 AM (#2623090)
Sox won, of course.

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