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## Thursday, October 06, 2005

#### Shootin’ Craps

Voros returns to BTF with a look at probability and the playoffs.

You often hear members of baseball’s underground intelligentsia (otherwise known as ‘stat drunk computer nerds’) describe baseball’s playoffs as a ‘crapshoot.’ Now despite the fact most of us subterranean baseball thinkers would likely soil ourselves if we ever found ourselves in the midst of a real back-alley craps game, in general we seem pretty damn confident we know what we are talking about when we use the term.

Not one likely to take these sorts of things on faith, I decided to take a cursory (please remember that word before someone starts chiming in with stuff you need a PHD just to get the introductory textbook to)…

…um, where was I—oh yes, I decided to take a cursory look at the issue and see if the statistical geekerati know what the hell they are talking about.

The experiment is simple. Estimate the winning chances in a game of two teams with given winning percentages and adjust for home field advantage. Then take those numbers and come up with the chances of winning a 5 or 7 game series.

The following tables list the chances of winning 5 or 7 game series for teams with differing everyday win percentages. The win percentages aligned vertically on the left side are the win percentages of the team with home field advantage, the winning percentages across the top are for the team with fewer home games in the series. The given resulting percentages are the chances of winning the series for the team with home field.

Home field advantage is set so that a .500 team would win at a .600 clip at home and a .400 clip on the road. Or, for our purposes, a series between two evenly matched teams would have the home team win on average 60.0% of the games. Why is that so much different than we see in the regular season?
(around .540) Well since the war, the home team has won roughly (very roughly but there are side issues at work that I don’t want to get into) about 60% of
the games in World Series play. Since there’s no inherent reason why a home team should be the better overall team in the World Series (until recently home field simply alternated leagues), this suggests that home field advantage is stronger in the postseason than in the regular season. I’ve decided to base the above on that assumption, since it’s quite reasonable to come up with reasons why that might be the case. (Insert gratuitous swipe at Eric Gregg here).

To come up with the winning percentage of a single game, the following formula was used:

A = Team A’s Win% (home team)

B = Team B’s Win%

((A*(1-B))/.5)/(((A*(1-B))/.5)+(((1-A)*B)/.5)) = Team A’s chance of winning

Batter-Pitcher Matchup

Then I raised that number by .737 to adjust for home field advantage in that game (an exponent works well here because you can’t go above 1 or below 0 with it). From there it’s easy to come up with full series winning percentages based on those numbers.

Anyway, what the table shows is that the geeks are, to an extent, correct. Any individual series can be a bit of a crapshoot. For example, if we assume the Cardinals face the Padres and their ‘true’ win percentages are .625 and .500 respectively, the Cardinals, even with home field advantage, expect to win the series only about 73.77% of the time. While that may seem like a lot, in actuality the Padres chances would be a little below the chances of rolling a ‘9’or higher in craps. In other words while the Padres are indeed underdogs, they certainly have a shooters chance.

Still, just like in craps, while any outcome can easily happen, some outcomes are more likely than others and the Cardinals do rank as clear favorites to win the series if we assume those win percentages are correct. Of course this is without adjusting for different starting pitchers and so forth, but remember this is just a cursory look to give us an idea of what level of crapshoot things are. Please do not use this info for wagering purposes, unless of course you win, in which case I’ll set up a pay pal site for you to send me my cut.

It’s also worth noting that even a favored team whose chances of winning each series it participates in is 70%, would still only win all three series about a third of the time.

So we geeks are essentially right. (And don’t we just love to announce it to the world when we are). The playoffs are, to a certain extent, a crapshoot. Baseball’s current playoff format ensures that even the very best teams are likely underdogs to win the World Series once they make the playoffs.  There’s just not enough games against too strong of opposition to swing the balance too heavily in their favor. I’ll leave it to others to argue whether this be good or whether this be bad.

And while it’s unlikely the Padres will wind up winning World Series rings (or watches), their chances are not probably not too far from the chances of rolling snake eyes.

Which can happen, something we geeks know from many years of playing cutthroat games of

Risk

“Craps.”

Voros McCracken Posted: October 06, 2005 at 12:54 AM | 314 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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101. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 02:43 PM (#1668495)

The fighting over whether the Red Sox are a “saber” team or not is a remnant of that. BL et al want the Red Sox to be a non-saber team, because if they are a saber team their whole theory about the A’s sucking (which is a fine conjecture, but not supported or disproved by the playoff results because of the selection process I detail above) is a bunch of hooey. The other side—with less strong personalities, so I don’t know who’s leadign the charge—wants to Red Sox to be a saber team because that would prove conclusively that BL’s theory is hooey.

I don’t accept this at all. Classification of Boston as “saber” or not is possible, once criteria of “saber” are set out. What BL and I and Rauseo and others have objected to is the variability of the criteria used to classify different teams. At one point, it seemed to include something like (1) low payroll, (2) high obp guys, (3) little emphasis on defense and running, (4) interchangeability of players, and maybe somethings else. There was much disdain coming from teh saber crowd upon hearing Torre’s frequent mantra that “Pitching is everything” (or more important, he obviously meant) in the playoffs. I don’t know where to place that in the saber thing.

Boston doesn’t seem to meet that, at least not perfectly. Sure, Boston’s got some high OBP guys, they mash the ball, when they won they had 2 great and one close to great starters, quality D and some well placed running. That doesn’t seem to be saber, however. That seems to be constitutive simply of a good team. Or to put it differently, Boston qualifies as a “Saber” team as much as the Yankees, constructed by Gene Michael et al, did while they were winning championships (and probably as much as some other historic teams would). What I see happening is there was an initial and provocative and meaningful definition of a “saber” team that has given way to a rather unprovocative (uninteresting) and less meaningful definition. The latter implies there’s no “revolution” in the thinking, just tweaking.

102. Chris Dial Posted: October 07, 2005 at 02:54 PM (#1668518)

At one point, it seemed to include something like (1) low payroll, (2) high obp guys, (3) little emphasis on defense and running, (4) interchangeability of players, and maybe somethings else

1) no
2) yes
3) mostly (although you’re a bit vague)
4) no
5) yes

It’s prioritizing offense over defense, rather thna “little emphasis”.  And not “running”, but more the SBs and that’s only if you can’t steal at >80%.

103. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 02:58 PM (#1668523)

Tell me positively then what are the elements of a saber team, Chris.

104. DCA Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:01 PM (#1668529)

At one point, it seemed to include something like (1) low payroll, (2) high obp guys, (3) little emphasis on defense and running, (4) interchangeability of players, and maybe somethings else.

Well, if you include (1) you have to control for it because there is a correlation between payroll and winning.

(2) you have no argument from me

(3) is no longer true with regard to defense.  “Saber” teams are generally good defensively now, and I think there’s an emphasis on accurately measuring defense (i.e. Jose Valentin is good defensively whereas traditionalists see lots of errors and think he’s bad).  So this is now an equivalent of “high OBP defense” vs “high RBI defense” or whatever, and I think it’s clearly incorrect to say saber teams don’t value defense.

Even the early A’s did this:  Bordick and Gallego and Weiss up the middle, Brosius over Giambi at 3B, playing Hernandez at C when he couldn’t hit, etc.

(3a) saber teams are not against good basestealers running.  See Rickey with the A’s, and more recently, Eric Byrnes.  They just don’t way to pay a premium for basestealing ability, or let their Jacque Joneses run themselves into outs.

I am surprised that more teams, both “saber” and not, aren’t adding Dave Robertses or even Herb Washingtons or Rickey Hendersons (the original is available) to their postseason rosters, and using those players (see Lofton on the bench last year while Roberts was running wild).  Drop your seventh RP and get a basestealer in there.

(4) The Beane A’s have consistantly not used their backups much.  They typically have the most (or close to it) players over 500 PA and fewest over 100 PA.  They don’t platoon, except when players are competing for a starting job—Kielty vs. Byrnes, etc.  If the A’s are the paragon of the saber team, this would not be a saber characteristic.  Stacking your AAA team with major league passible talent and then never using it would be, however.

105. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:08 PM (#1668537)

Incidentally, have you ever read anything by Nassim Nicholas Taleb?

A very interesting book, very quirky.

106. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:12 PM (#1668549)

DCA: Thanks for the comments, but again, don’t you have to identify some characteristics that a priori identify teams as saber or not? IOW, I’m confused when you write that now some saber teams are good defensively. Do they cease to be “saber” when they prioritize defense? Or, what makes them saber still? State what you take to be the criteria, and then let’s discuss whether Boston, or Houston, or Tampa Bay is saber.

107. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:13 PM (#1668555)

See Rickey with the A’s

Billy Martin was saber? Henderson ran into an awful lot of outs.

108. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:17 PM (#1668563)

What makes a team “saber”? I personally think it’s a matter of emphasis. Beane may have thought OBP was more important than defense, but he never played Giambi (either one) at SS. Nor did he disdain pitching; hell, the question whether he gets credit for Hudson/Mulder/Zito has generated more heat and less light on this board than steroids. Every team is, necessarily, a balance of competing strengths and weaknesses; Willie Mays is not available to play all nine positions. To me it’s all a question of which components to weigh slightly more heavily.

109.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:19 PM (#1668573)

It seems to me that a great part of the problem is that you simply can’t equate “best team” with “best record”, and then try to explain that when a team with 90 wins knocks off a team with 100 wins, it’s necessarily caused by some unexplainable or unpredictable factor, such as “luck” or “random chance.”

Kiko addressed some of my concerns in #72.  A team which won 100 games may have won 60 of those games early in the first half.  It may have won many of those games becuase a rookie or a journeyman pitched way over his head, or because it played in a weak AL division and got to play 4 weak teams a disproportionate number of times.  And so on.

The point is that in many or even most “upsets,“a closer examination of the comparative team strengths that goes beyond the simple W-L record will show that many “upsets” aren’t really upsets at all, and “random chance” is much less of a factor than a lot of folks seem to think in causing those “upsets.”

IOW, contrary to the prevailing religion, I am strongly skeptical of the idea that the regular season is the greatest predictor of not just how a team will perform in the postseason, but of how much the regular season necessarily reveals about a team’s true strength.

IOW (and to cite just one prominent example)  those 2001 Mariners were likely not an historically great team, and if they’d started the playoffs ten more times that year, they might have been “lucky” to win the whole thing once or twice.  The weaknesses that they revealed in that postseason would be at least as likely to have been “repeatable” as the strengths that they revealed in the regular season.

110. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:20 PM (#1668574)

What makes a team “saber”? I personally think it’s a matter of emphasis. Beane may have thought OBP was more important than defense, but he never played Giambi (either one) at SS. Nor did he disdain pitching; hell, the question whether he gets credit for Hudson/Mulder/Zito has generated more heat and less light on this board than steroids. Every team is, necessarily, a balance of competing strengths and weaknesses; Willie Mays is not available to play all nine positions. To me it’s all a question of which components to weigh slightly more heavily.

This is what I consider the latter, unprovocative view. It’s not interesting, quite honestly. Saber is no revolution, but just a tweaking. What was all the commotion about then?

111. Rally Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:26 PM (#1668592)

I’m confused when you write that now some saber teams are good defensively. Do they cease to be “saber” when they prioritize defense?

If so, then Oakland ceased to be a “saber” team about 5 years ago.

112. Sam M. Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:29 PM (#1668598)

At one point, it seemed to include something like (1) low payroll, (2) high obp guys, (3) little emphasis on defense and running, (4) interchangeability of players, and maybe somethings else.

Definitely NOT # 1.  Low payroll was just a condition that some teams (including the A’s) find themselves in.  Some low payroll teams use sabermetric analysis to try to maximize their chance of contending/winning despite the low payroll, but a team can be low payroll and NOT be sabermetric, or it can be high payroll and be sabermetric.

I do think that every sabermetric team will tend to emphasize OBP, but that, too, is not what makes them sabermetric.  It is a consequence of their being sabermetric.  That is, anyone who seriously (or even half-seriously) pays attention to the statistical methods of analyzing baseball and assessing baseball players will come to the conclusion that getting on base (i.e., NOT making out) is the most crucial component of an offense, and preventing people from getting on base is the most crucial element of effective pitching/defense.

To me, a team is more or less sabermetric depending on how open their decision-making heirarchy is to using individualized* statistical analysis to control or influence decisions.  Those decisions include: drafting, trades, arbitration, FA signings, contract offers, playing time, roster spots, in-game strategy, probably others I’m not thinking of right now.

Non-sabermetric does NOT necessarily mean bad.  It is, I think, relatively “non-sabermetric” to give strong emphasis to a scout’s assessment of a young player’s skills for purposes of drafting him (or not drafting him).  But that may be a good way to do business (in fact, I think it is, at least if it is combined with solid sabermetric performance analysis of what he’s actually done on the field).  There are certain non-sabermetric practices, though, mostly involving roster construction and in-game decisions, that I think are demonstrably bad.  If a team is non-sabermetric in those ways, then I think it probably is a badly run organization.

So it’s a continuum.  Pure reliance on saber-approved stats is bad (not taking into account that Mr. Superstats is also a drug dealer who is going to corrupt your otherwise really young roster).  Speaking at the most general level, I think a team should be very sabermetric.  If it’s not, it’s more likely to spend limited resources inefficiently, make costly mistakes, and not take full advantage of the talent in its organization.  But sabermetric analysis has never, and will never, be nearly sufficient to carry a franchise to long-term, consistent success.  In sum, it is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for success in modern baseball.

* - By individualized, I mean non-contextual.  A team that looks at a player’s RBIs, for example, is not using individualized statistical analysis, and it’s not being sabermetric.  It’s being John Kruk.

113. Danny Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:30 PM (#1668604)

If so, then Oakland ceased to be a “saber” team about 5 years ago.

Yup, it started with Grieve/Berroa/Hinch for Damon/Ellis/Lidle.

114. Electric Ham Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:42 PM (#1668626)

A few random thoughts…

- a team’s winning percentage over 162 games includes games where the 4th, 5th, and 6th starters pitched, and these guys won’t usually see the field in the playoffs

- as a Brave’s fan the “playoffs are a crapshoot” theory has worn thin.  Cox’s main job is to put his best lineup on the field, and he’s consistently refused to do that when it matters the most.  If we’re going to lose to Houston, let’s go down with McCann, Langerhans, LaRoche, et al instead of Estrada, Jordan, Franco.

115. DCA Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:45 PM (#1668635)

Billy Martin was saber?

Billy Martin was Art Howe?  I’m talking about 1998, the last time an A’s player lead the league in SB.

116. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:46 PM (#1668643)

Saber is no revolution, but just a tweaking. What was all the commotion about then?

I think Sam is right in 112. There are certain truths, such as OBP, which 25 years ago might have been open to question but aren’t now (I’m ignoring silly arguments like Productive Outs). Teams could and did get fooled by contextual factors like park effects and small sample size. These may not be Newtonian in their impact, but they represent a clear improvement in our understanding of the game.

117. DCA Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:49 PM (#1668652)

Willie Mays is not available to play all nine positions. To me it’s all a question of which components to weigh slightly more heavily.

No, but Bugs Bunny is.  Seriously, though, if you had to pick one player to play all nine positions, who would it be?

I’m tempted to go Ruth, because we know he could pitch, but that would be some brutal infield defense.  I might take the best available middle infielder who could be a passible pitcher.  Or a top SP who can hit a little and came up as a shortstop or center fielder.  Any thoughts?

118. 185/456(GGC) Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:50 PM (#1668653)

A very interesting book, very quirky.

I picked up Fooled By Randomness from the local library and am most of the way through it.  I think that I’ll have to reread it again, though, to let it sink in.

119. spivey Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:51 PM (#1668659)

Although this thread is taking a bit of a turn, I’d like to reiterate Mefisto’s point. Nobody is denying that Oakland lost those 4 games. You’re not going to keep refreshing your browser on the results and the results will change. That much is trivial. However, in order to have a basis to criticize Oakland (and their GM), there had to be a reason to predict their struggles. I think it’s very possible there are a couple of reasons why they might struggle more than your average team. One of the main ones I think is they tend to have a solid bottom end of the rotation relative to other teams, which is an advantage that is pretty much mitigated in the postseason.

I don’t think this is really a reason to criticize Oakland. Instead, I think it’s a reason to praise them. They’re good at finding cheap, helpful players, and being better on the margins on other teams to make up for the fact they don’t compete on a completely even playing field for top tier talent (i.e, they pretty much have to develop it all).

Also, I’d like to address JC’s point that people citing W2% or W3% is ‘nonsense on stilts’. I disagree. While there are problems with these formulas, mainly I think the quality of the bullpen, quality of manager, and if guys are good at performing well in clutch situations (mainly, that they get a lot of their value from BA), they still have good predictive value for the next season. In fact, I think these formulas have better predictive value than a normal winning percentage.

Obviously the best formula combines components of both, but these projected winning percentages serve a good purpose. I think they help tell who should have won. Obviously, tying back to the earlier point, they didn’t say who did win. But, the reason why they predict the future is they show what the team should have done in the past. People use a similar argument for why Win Shares and etc. should be used for MVP voting. I disagree, because performing over your head affects value. Thus, obviously the CWS had value in this season. They got the wins, even if their win total was over their collective heads. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what they should have done.

120. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:53 PM (#1668666)

I do think that every sabermetric team will tend to emphasize OBP, but that, too, is not what makes them sabermetric. It is a consequence of their being sabermetric.

Well, might it also be a consequence of their not being sabermetric; iow, might there be paths to this village? Or, is the claim that ANY team that emphasizes OBP is “acting sabermetrically.” Is sabermetrics now like the Mormons, retroactively baptising the non-converts?

That is, anyone who seriously (or even half-seriously) pays attention to the statistical methods of analyzing baseball and assessing baseball players will come to the conclusion that getting on base (i.e., NOT making out) is the most crucial component of an offense, and preventing people from getting on base is the most crucial element of effective pitching/defense.

Was someone in baseball history denying this apparent commonplace? Or, perhaps, were they modifying this to “the most crucial component of an offense is scoring runs; and the most crucial component of a defense is preventing runs?” Sure, getting OB correlates with scoring runs, but so does marching your team downfield correlate with getting touchdowns. However, some teams are very good at moving the ball and less good at putting the ball in the endzone, and I imagine that some teams might be good at getting guys OB, but less good at getting them home (than they ought to be). (To my lay mind there is an awful lot of devaluing the RBI at this site.)

121. spivey Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:53 PM (#1668667)

Bah. I mean nobody’s denying Oakland lost those 4 series…

122. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 03:56 PM (#1668678)

Billy Martin was saber?

Billy Martin was Art Howe? I’m talking about 1998, the last time an A’s player lead the league in SB.

LOL. My bad. I’d forgotten Rickey’s return. Man, 39 yrs/old and 66 SBs! Free Rickey Henderson!

123. Sam M. Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:05 PM (#1668694)

is the claim that ANY team that emphasizes OBP is “acting sabermetrically.”

Certainly not (at least it’s not my claim).  Emphasizing OBP is one thing that a sabermetric team will, inevitably, do, but it’s certainly possible that a non-sabermetric team could do it, too.  So I’d put it this way:

If a team acts in a way that shows it doesn’t make OBP a priority, it is NOT sabermetric.  If it acts in a way that shows it does make OBP a priority, we need to know more to determine whether it IS sabermetric.

Was someone in baseball history denying this apparent commonplace?

Absolutely.  And not just in history; right now, today.  You hear the John Kruks of the world talk about how it’s bad to get some runners on base because they’ll “clog” the bases.  You hear Fran Healy talk about how David Wright is too patient at the plate and should swing at more pitches, and how Jose Reyes is doing just great being “aggressive” and never mind his .300 OBP.  Even when we move out of the dunderhead class, it has hardly been universal that OBP is the most important element of good offense.  Indeed, there is still wrangling about the relative importance of getting on base and slugging; many very smart baseball types have stressed hitting for power (especially, but not only, home runs) as the key.  Others have stressed “aggressiveness”—putting runners in motion, taking the extra base, putting “pressure on the defense”—as the hallmark of a good offense.  It has NOT been some eternal, unanimously recognized consensus that OBP is to baseball what The Force was to Luke Skywalker.

124. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:07 PM (#1668698)

Seriously, though, if you had to pick one player to play all nine positions, who would it be?

I used Mays as the example because I think he’d be the very best choice. It pretty much has to be a righty because lefty’s can’t make the pivot at 2B. It also has to be someone with mobility, since the thought of Greg Luzinski at SS would be sort of like the thought of Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court.

Oh.

Anyway, I think Mays is your best bet. Mike Schmidt would also be good, as would Mantle or Clemente.

I picked up Fooled By Randomness from the local library and am most of the way through it. I think that I’ll have to reread it again, though, to let it sink in.

Yeah, it gets a little dense in places.

is the claim that ANY team that emphasizes OBP is “acting sabermetrically.”

I would say it this way: teams which had a high OBP (McGraw’s Giants, for example) were what we would now call sabermetric teams even though McGraw never heard of the word. I have no idea if he emphasized it, but it’s hard to see how his teams could have been so consistently and remarkably good at it if he did not.

125. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:10 PM (#1668705)

Tell me positively then what are the elements of a saber team, Chris

Frankly, I don’t think the term means very much.  In our discussions here, it seems to be used mostly by Les Oignons as a stick to beat people with.  Which is their prerogative of course :)

Sam M. says it best - “so it’s a continuum”.  But even “continuum” isn’t really a good word for it - I refuse to admit that the positions caricatured as “saber” and “non-saber” are at opposite ends of any meaningful continuum.  Saber, if it’s anything at all, is a type of analysis - nothing more.  It consists in the application of statistical (or objective, to extend the term) methods to decision-making.

“Moneyball” isn’t “saber”, at least not purely.  If Moneyball means the attempt to exploit market inefficiencies, which I think the term is intended to mean, then you don’t only do that via statistical methods.  If you do, you miss half or more of the battle - there are myriad market inefficiencies in the application of coaching knowledge to talent, for example.  The Braves exploit this to the hilt - to take one example of millions, Jorge Sosa was useless to Tampa but his combination with a knowledgeable pitching coach has leveraged his cheaply acquired talent.  Unless you’re the Yankees and can sign a team full of superstars (or “top twelve VORP guys” if you like, BL), you don’t win year after year unless you get good at stretching your dollar by exploiting the market.  (Although Atlanta’s #### don’t work in the playoffs either).

To say that a team is a “saber team”, I think, is to say one of two potential things:

First, that the team is using statistically-based or objectively-based measures to guide decision-making.  We can’t really know that for most teams.  Are the St. Louis Cardinals “saber”?  Well, they use statistically-based measures a lot.  Do those guide decision-making?  Who knows?  That’s probably a continuum - what guides decisions is a myriad of factors of which the saber analysis is one.  We can’t even know this for the Oakland A’s, let alone other teams whose methods are far less public.

Second, a team can be a “saber team” because your own statistically-based or objectively-based analysis determines that their moves are good ones.  This is where “sabermetric darlings” (that old chestnut of a phrase) came from.  Well, that is also (in a sense) a continuum, because nobody’s moves always check out, and what’s more statistically-based or objectively-based methods will differ.  So one analyst’s “saber team” may well be another’s “anti-saber team”.

If we mean something else by “saber team”, such as “the favorite team of that group of guys over there”, then the term is far less interesting.  I’d say “meaningless”.

126. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:15 PM (#1668715)

In our discussions here, it seems to be used mostly by Les Oignons

Really? Wow, I don’t see that at all.

127. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:15 PM (#1668716)

Emphasizing OBP is one thing that a sabermetric team will, inevitably, do

See, I don’t even agree with this.  I mean, I do agree that baserunners are the royal road to runs.  Absolutely.  And there’s no wa yto objectively analyse otherwise.

But you can be a “sabermetric” team in the Polo Grounds and say, you know what, (forget) OBP.  We looked at the numbers and did a bunch of pitch-by-pitch analysis - let’s not make OBP our top priority.  Let’s line up some dead-pull hitters and bash us a bunch of home runs instead, and get a bunch of pitchers who work the outside part of the plate, because guys who pitch inside have been killing us (and this study shows it, or whatever).

128.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:16 PM (#1668719)

To answer Andy in #109 and to build a little on Electric Ham’s point (#114):

in many or even most “upsets,“a closer examination of the comparative team strengths that goes beyond the simple W-L record will show that many “upsets” aren’t really upsets at all, and “random chance” is much less of a factor than a lot of folks seem to think in causing those “upsets.”

IOW, contrary to the prevailing religion, I am strongly skeptical of the idea that the regular season is the greatest predictor of not just how a team will perform in the postseason, but of how much the regular season necessarily reveals about a team’s true strength.

IOW (and to cite just one prominent example) those 2001 Mariners were likely not an historically great team, and if they’d started the playoffs ten more times that year, they might have been “lucky” to win the whole thing once or twice

It depends on your definition of “great.”  I have often thought that the greatest teams from the past were like the 1912 Red Sox, who depended overwhelmingly on Joe Wood, or the 1920 Indians, with Bagby and Coveleski: ultra-durable (for that year, at least!) ultra-capable starting aces.  These great pitchers would appear in over 40 games (of 154), between starting and occasional closing, and dominate postseason series: they let teams build for both the regular season and the Series.

I would guess that most of the great postseason upsets are a matter more of the underdog being able to turn for one week only into the 1920 Indians —masking its long-term weaknesses—than of the favorite getting its weaknesses exposed.  So the 1987 Twins can start Viola and Blyleven five times in seven games.  The 1990 Reds get to start Jose Rijo twice in a week when he was lights-out (reminiscent of Dick Rudolph in 1914).  The 2001 Yankees get to match Pettitte against Sele twice, and Clemens against Paul Abbott, so it doesn’t matter that the NY fourth starter has been a matter for futile prayer all season long (and in the event, loses his start 14-3).

And then, great as they looked against Seattle, the ‘01 Yankees run into an even greater pair of pitchers in the Series ...

129. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:20 PM (#1668724)

Now someone might legitimately say, that strategy in 27, that’s not saber.  In which case (forget) saber.  Either it embraces a diversity of statistical/analytic approaches, or it’s a simplification not even worth arguing about.

The worst reason of all to cheer for a team, is its GM.

130. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:24 PM (#1668734)

I would guess that most of the great postseason upsets are a matter more of the underdog being able to turn for one week only into the 1920 Indians—masking its long-term weaknesses—than of the favorite getting its weaknesses exposed. So the 1987 Twins can start Viola and Blyleven five times in seven games.

And turn the air-conditioning blowers on when the opposition come up to hit.  And getting home field advantage despite winning 85 games.  And creating 110 decibels of noise at all times.  Etc.

Of course, as some will correctly point out, you have to be able to leverage your advantages.  If your advantages are of a nature that you can’t leverage them in a playoff situation (like strong depth, or taking advantages of pitchers with poor control, or superior hustle) then you risk being on the wrong end of the leash when it’s time to walk the dog.

131. and Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:45 PM (#1668778)

(I’m ignoring silly arguments like Productive Outs).

You know an awful lot of this debate, and almost all of the emotion, comes from an evaluation of the press.  The guys saying you don’t want Barry Bonds or Frank Thomas on base a lot because they clog things up.  Or that chemistry in the clubhouse trumps skill on the field.

Now a few - a very few, I’d argue - of the GMs and “baseball men” have these notions.  But most, even the non-saber types who love scouts and tobaccy, don’t.  Cox/Scheurholtz may not be saber types and may not calculate things like VORP but they certainly understand OBP and leveraging advantages, etc.

IOW, this debate almost seems to be one between baseball fans, rather than baseball people.  And, as such, it seems kind of silly, to me, all of a sudden.

132. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:48 PM (#1668787)

IOW, this debate almost seems to be one between baseball fans, rather than baseball people. And, as such, it seems kind of silly, to me, all of a sudden.

Perhaps this is what I was trying to get at.

133. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:48 PM (#1668789)

Well said, bunyon.

134. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:50 PM (#1668797)

Oh, DCA, I almost forgot the other really obvious candidate for best ever at all 9 positions: Honus Wagner.

135. and Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:53 PM (#1668806)

I think Babe Ruth in his prime is clearly the choice.  A near HOF caliber pitcher.  Best slugger ever.  And a good fielding athlete.  Obviously the older Babe isn’t a good choice but the young guy would handle himself fine.  Only his leftyness at SS and 2B would hurt.

136. and Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:55 PM (#1668810)

I submitted too soon.

So, the whole middle infield would be a problem.  But, you’d have an effective lefthanded pitcher - not true of any other position player ever.  And you score a ton of runs.  You could afford to give up the middle infield defense, I think.

137. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:59 PM (#1668818)

Andy made a really good point earlier…

IOW, contrary to the prevailing religion, I am strongly skeptical of the idea that the regular season is the greatest predictor of not just how a team will perform in the postseason, but of how much the regular season necessarily reveals about a team’s true strength.

I think this is very perceptive.  The regular season measures a particular *kind* of strength, certainly, and because it’s so long it can measure it more accurately.  But that isn’t the only sense in which a team can be good or bad.  If the baseball season were like the football season, played once a week on Sundays, the strengths required to win would be quite different.  (Can you imagine football, incidentally, if every team used a five-quarterback rotation?)

There’s nothing holy, or set in stone, about a 162-game season with games every day and very few doubleheaders.  It’s not “the ultimate test of strength”, it’s just one kind.  A seven-game series with off days is a different kind of test - less precise, true, because variability (if I may use a weasel word for “luck”) plays a larger role.  But a test nonetheless, which one they can legitimately pass or fail.  A team might play better in a seven-game series and lose, but it won’t happen very often.

Now, quite often a team might be better, and not play better.  So what?  Don’t tell me what you *are*... show me what you can *do*.

138. bkaz Posted: October 07, 2005 at 04:59 PM (#1668819)

I use to argue with guys that players like Eddie Murray were better than what their sabermetric values said they were, because guys like Murray provided much value with men on hitting.  Sabermatricians always referred to standard deviation etc., and refused to include it in their player values(which meant their analysis was missing large chunks of the picture of what happened).  They always wanted to put the credit into a ‘luck’ bin, instead of the player that accomplished it.

Well, I told them that Sparky Anderson must really be happy now that the sabermatricians don’t give Murray credit for the men on hitting.  Because now all of those grand slams and three run homers that Murray hit are no longer worth anything more than the average home run according to the sabermetric formulas. So I guess Baltimore should have some of the wins they got from those performances erased.

139. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:04 PM (#1668830)

Ruth would be a very good player at all 9 positions, but I think that Martin Dihigo would be better in the crucial infield spots and later in their respective careers was certainly Ruth’s better as a pitcher.

If it was eight positions, I’d say maybe Wagner, who some (notably Tommy Leach in _The Glory Of Their Times_) thought was the best player at EVERY position except catcher.  But pitching is so important…

140. Chris Dial Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:06 PM (#1668832)

Anyway, I think Mays is your best bet. Mike Schmidt would also be good, as would Mantle or Clemente

hah!

You kill me.

Today’s athletes are the greatest there are, and when you list who could play all 9 positions the best - not one of today’s athletes makes teh list (Schmidt is close).

Admit it - yesterday’s stars are much better than today’s stars.

141.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:08 PM (#1668838)

Can you imagine football, incidentally, if every team used a five-quarterback rotation?

The Jets are giving that a shot this year.

142. strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:10 PM (#1668845)

Ichiro! says hello.

143. strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:13 PM (#1668853)

I heard Ichiro! was a pitcher at one point in his baseball career - was it in the minors or before?

I would guess that most of the great postseason upsets are a matter more of the underdog being able to turn for one week only into the 1920 Indians—masking its long-term weaknesses—than of the favorite getting its weaknesses exposed. So the 1987 Twins can start Viola and Blyleven five times in seven games. The 1990 Reds get to start Jose Rijo twice in a week when he was lights-out (reminiscent of Dick Rudolph in 1914).

The 1990 Reds were, IIRC, just the fifth team to lead their league (or division) from wire to wire. They were definitely not underdogs against the 1990 A’s.

144. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:15 PM (#1668858)

Who’s Chris arguing with in #40?

145. Sam M. Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:17 PM (#1668864)

Emphasizing OBP is one thing that a sabermetric team will, inevitably, do

See, I don’t even agree with this. . . . But you can be a “sabermetric” team in the Polo Grounds and say, you know what, (forget) OBP.

Two things.  First, yeah, maybe if you want to talk about a really extreme environment you might have a case to make that some other characteristic will trump getting runners on base.  Maybe.  If that means “inevitably” is a touch strong, then fine.

But second, remember that OBP is not good JUST because it means you are putting runners on base.  It is good because it means you are avoiding outs.  A high team-wide OBP means that you are getting more productive PAs per out than your competitors.  Polo Grounds or elsewhere, mixing in more good outcomes per out is going to score more runs.

146. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:18 PM (#1668868)

The regular season measures a particular *kind* of strength, certainly, and because it’s so long it can measure it more accurately. But that isn’t the only sense in which a team can be good or bad.

I’d say that the regular season tests a team’s depth, while the postseason tests its peak.

So, the whole middle infield would be a problem.

More than a “problem” I think. Not only would the team turn essentially zero DPs ending 4-3, but having a lefty at both 3B and SS means problems on plays in the hole too. And that’s assuming Ruth had the range and hands to cover the infield (and CF—I think we can safely assume he did not). A lefty C could be a problem too.

As for pitching, Ruth surely could do that. I suggested Mantle above, but his arm may not have been strong enough to pitch. However, Mays, Clemente and Wagner all had great arms. We’ll never know, but I believe they all could have pitched.

147. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:23 PM (#1668877)

Sam, I know, and you’re right.

What I was pointing to, is that “saber” is a process. It is *not* a magic formula, not even OBP. “Saber” isn’t reducible to a laundry list of Good Stats, and it sure as hell isn’t reducible to Ten Things I Like About The Oakland A’s.

I know you don’t think that either, I was just pointing it out.  There’s a temptation of both groups of fans to caricature what we mean by sabermetrics, and it results in a lack of clarity, and in arguments.

148. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:25 PM (#1668880)

Who’s Chris arguing with in #40?

Me.

hah!

You kill me.

Today’s athletes are the greatest there are, and when you list who could play all 9 positions the best - not one of today’s athletes makes teh list (Schmidt is close).

Admit it - yesterday’s stars are much better than today’s stars.

I don’t see the inconsistency. On average, today’s players certainly are better. But that doesn’t mean I deny the greatness of guys like Wagner or Ruth, much less more modern stars like Mays and Mantle.

This particular game requires a unique blend of skills and is pretty much limited to inner circle HOFers. I disqualified leftys (and I believe rightly so—pun intended), so guys like Bonds and Henderson won’t work. Joe Morgan lacked the arm. I guess Cal Ripken might qualify, but I doubt he has the offense to handle it. A-Rod is someone I should have suggested (and now do).

149. Chris Dial Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:30 PM (#1668894)

I’d suggest, MF, that Derek Jeter could.  Or Robin Yount.  Or Paul Molitor.

I don’t think it requires inner circle bats as much as good defense.  Play some guys out of position in the IF and OF, and the runs you give up pile up in a hurry.

And where is Aaron?  Didn’t he start as a 2B?

Oh, and Pete Rose.

150. strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:30 PM (#1668895)

Could Arod play catcher?

Ichiro’s flexibility would be useful at catcher. He could play like Tony Pena did - quick as a cat, quick and strong arm. Pena was unorthodox, though successful. Ichiro is all about consistency and mechanics so he could play catcher the traditional style also.

151. strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:32 PM (#1668900)

Yount and Molitor were too brittle and couldn’t play catcher. I’m not sure about Jeter.

152.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:32 PM (#1668901)

Okay, I’m going to take another stab at my explanation of #37.

Everyone understood you the first time, and the response showed your specific errors in arriving at your result.  And you make the same errors the second time around.  Instead of correcting yourself, you “explain” it again.  And in the process start manufacturing all kinds of sh1t that other people have said.

(1) BL has not proved or attempted to prove any argument about a random process on the same piece of evidence.  That is what you want to read, because you think you can make a response.  I have pointed out the irony of someone always using the excuse “It was bound to happen” even when the prospects of something happening are very remote.

(a) That is not a proof of anything, that is me laughing at the marginally mathematically qualified generating excuses.
(b) You are choosing the space and when to randomize to make it look like its not a remote possibility.
(c) Then you, not me, is using this pre-selected randomization that ignores information to try to prove a point.  You have things totally backwards.

(2) On what criteria, other than the fact that it gives you the result you seek, are you choosing the data space to conduct your little binomial distribution.  There are a bunch of teams in MLB.  Why not run your little probability study on all 30 teams and see what your distribution odds are for any one team to lose 4 straight playoff series.

Let me guess why, (a) it wouldn’t give you the result you are looking for, and (b) you are going to selectively use some known information.  But which information is that, you are going to use information of teams that made the playoffs and presume that they proven that they are better than the teams that didn’t make the playoffs.  The regular season, god forbid, is not a crapshoot.  So now that you got those teams, you are going to stop using information.  You are just going to assume they are all 50/50, even though you have information that some of the teams didn’t perform well.  In fact, you have some specific information about the failure point.  The problem seems to be occuring in series deciding games.  Goodness no, there can’t be anything unique about this set of games, that would just throw the theory out the window.  Why not, run your little distribution on this set.  It wouldn’t give you the result you need to make your argument now would it.

So, lets recap this little point.  I’m not and have not made any argument that you presume.  You are making an argument.  You are selectively choosing points in time, selectively choosing the set you want to study, and selectively adding and removing known information.  But you will have your buddies jump in and accuse others of cherry picking based on the use of completely closed set that doesn’t ignore any information.  That my friends is called fun with statistics.

The fighting over whether the Red Sox are a “saber” team or not is a remnant of that. BL et al want the Red Sox to be a non-saber team, because if they are a saber team their whole theory about the A’s sucking (which is a fine conjecture, but not supported or disproved by the playoff results because of the selection process I detail above) is a bunch of hooey. The other side—with less strong personalities, so I don’t know who’s leadign the charge—wants to Red Sox to be a saber team because that would prove conclusively that BL’s theory is hooey.

That is nothing more than seven layers of misdirectional bullsh1t.  Again, this is fukking amazing to me.  I watch years of little fanboys jumping on this site claiming such-and-such team is a dumbasss because they don’t use DIPS, and VORP and whatnot.  I’ve seen it said about columnists, managers, general managers and posters, over and over and over again.  And then when the Angels win, they go from dumbasss to saber.  Davis declares them saber.  And this cycle repeats, I think its funny. So,

(1) I make the express point about fanboys choosing teams based on them being “saber”, and you take the fukking outlandish position that this means that I am the one choosing winners as being not saber.  That is absurd, does anyone here think that Kansas City Royals are saber.  If even there was a reasonable argument on this point, my set of non-saber team includes plenty of losers.  The fanboys set of saber teams includes no losers, they just cut loose teams like the Blue Jays when they suck.

(2) As I have EXPRESSLY stated a thousand times, beyond the humor value, its a stupid fukking argument, because it does not prove anything as you have alleged.  I don’t fukking care who you want to claim as saber.  I have made very express indictments against your luck fairy, against your silly little stats like DIPS, against the fatfukk player softball models, against the ACE RELIEVER model, against Billy Beane, against heros like Jack Crust, against specific tenants that is found in Beane’s book.  So far, I’m batting a 1.000.  But it won’t stop you guys from trying to throw a religion on me than arguing against it.  I’ve even seen people try to use Braves failures as an argument against my positions simply because I’m a Braves fan.  That is laughable.

(3) It is totally misdirection bullsh1t to even bring this up.  Its not related.  Its just trying to move the conversation and the argument to what you perceive as an attackable point in what I’ve posted as what is fastly become a complete philosophy.  In fact, this should be an interesting experiment.  I left open a little fanboy pounce item in (2); I bet some of the scanners jump on it to move the conversation further.  Do you think that if you make this about me, it makes your calculations and theories more complete.

153. JC in DC Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:32 PM (#1668902)

To answer the question you and Chris are discussing, I wonder whether a player like Winfield wouldn’t be even better. Hard-throwing, great athlete. Maybe Eric Davis?

154. Chris Dial Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:39 PM (#1668923)

I think the winner is obvious: Craig Biggio

Has already played at the MLB level: C, 2B, CF, LF

I think Szym is right - Jimmie Foxx played all these positions and was not just a beast, but The Beast.

155. spivey Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:43 PM (#1668938)

A-Rod and possibly Pujols are the best current candidates I think. Pujols was well regarded as a defensive 3B, and while I think he wouldn’t have good range at 2B, SS, or CF, his hitting wouldn’t make him worse than average at any of those positions, I don’t think.

156. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:48 PM (#1668954)

I’d suggest, MF, that Derek Jeter could. Or Robin Yount. Or Paul Molitor.

I don’t think it requires inner circle bats as much as good defense. Play some guys out of position in the IF and OF, and the runs you give up pile up in a hurry.

And where is Aaron? Didn’t he start as a 2B?

Aaron is possible. I’m not sure he could pitch. Winfield is a good suggestion, though maybe too tall for SS/2B/C.

I don’t agree with Jeter, Yount or Molitor. Injuries have to count. And while they all could handle the defense, I don’t think they’d do that much better than Mays or Mantle; even if they were better on defense, that wouldn’t make up for the HUGE offensive gap.

157.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:52 PM (#1668968)

Shane Halter was still playing some in AAA this year.  He has experience at all nine positions and the advantage over Ruth & Foxx of being alive.

158. Danny Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:53 PM (#1668974)

Of the guys being mentioned, what kind of RA do you think they’d allow (given their pitching and defense)?  Scoring 8 runs a game won’t help much when you’re allowing 7 or 8.

Would someone like Dontrelle be better?  Brooks Kieschnick?

159. Chris Dial Posted: October 07, 2005 at 05:59 PM (#1668996)

Injuries have to count

Uh, are you talking about Derek Jeter? or Shawn Jeter?

160. and Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:06 PM (#1669031)

And where is Aaron? Didn’t he start as a 2B?

Actually, I think Aaron is the guy.  I have to assume, since we’re having this imaginary one guy at 9 positions that we’re taking the player at their peak/prime.  Aaron was plus defense, good hands, strong arm and great offense.

Arod and Pujols are also good candidates.

161. strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:11 PM (#1669044)

Pujols in CF or SS? That defense would give up 12 runs a game.

With Ichiro you don’t get as much offense, but the defense is very sound at each position. You could probably play 2 oufielders to get another infielder. Or you could have 2 outfields and a rover.

162. 185/456(GGC) Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:19 PM (#1669071)

What about Tris speaker?  Sure he’s lefty, but you might be able to get away with a five infielder two outfielder configuration with him.  Plus, he pitched an inning once.

Of course, the best choice would be Sidd Finch.  He’s strike everyone out and would have to eventually score a run to win the game.

163. spivey Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:21 PM (#1669081)

Pujols in CF wouldn’t be any worse than Bernie Williams or Shawn Green. He’d probably be -40 at CF. -35 or so at SS. He’s a damn good hitter, and would easily make those numbers up.

Danny: These guys would suck at pitching, but Dontrelle would probably suck at CF, SS, 2B, and he’s not a good hitter. No walks, little power. he wouldn’t be scoring much. 3B/SS/OF/C with good arms can throw 90 MPH. So, I think it would be easier for them to learn how to pitch than it would be for Dontrelle to learn how to hit. I might be wrong.

164. Rally Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:23 PM (#1669089)

Honus Wagner did pitch in two games, he gave up zero earned runs in 8 innings, though he gave up 6 unearned.  Maybe he’d allow fewer with his clone playing behind him.  From what I’ve read, Wagner had a great arm and could have been successful as a pitcher if he had wanted to.

The average position player, when called on to pitch, has an ERA around 7-8 I think.  I calculated it once, but don’t have the numbers in front of me.  That would make winning tough for all but the best hitters, like Pujols.  The average pitcher would probably score 1 run per game.  There’s no pitcher who can win consistently with that offense.  A really good hitting pitcher like Don Drysdale might be able to win.

One more modern player I’d like to see playing Bugs Bunny style is Chone Figgins, who regularly plays everywhere but 1b, c, and p.

Before they went with the 3 catcher roster, Steve and Rex said if anything happened to the Molinas, Figgins was the emergency catcher.

165. and Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:24 PM (#1669092)

This exercise is interesting in that it points out how crucial each position really is, I think.

166. Danny Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:26 PM (#1669099)

I was thinking that Dontrelle, or other pitchers, would be better hitters if they were doing it every day.  Tim Hudson, for example, hit .396/.430/.670 in 300 PA as an OF for Auburn.

167.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:28 PM (#1669105)

Incidentally, have you ever read anything by Nassim Nicholas Taleb?

I am aquainted with Mr. Taleb.

THIS NMR IS CONSISTENT WITH THE SPECTRA WE"D EXPECT FOR THAT MOLECULE!!!

I’m willing to bet, you didn’t just take a big sniff and said, smells like it, I’ll report it as being consistent.  Because that is what your buddy V. does continuously.

I’m guessing that this criticism by Voros was directed towards you: (please remember that word before someone starts chiming in with stuff you need a PHD just to get the introductory textbook to)

Lil ole me.  Nah, I don’t merit the attention of a baseball scholar.

Part of it may have been your writing style, I dunno. It can still be opaque and occasionally condescending.

Goodness gracious, Daly, this astounds me.  On or about four to five years ago, I can’t even remember when this started, I wonder on to this site.  For the longest time I just read.

I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be, A BASEBALL SCHOLAR.

I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be, a sabermetrician.

I am not, nor have I ever, tried to get some baseball team to hire me to do clerk level analysis work.

I have not, published a single article to this forum.

I do not, nor do I intend to have, any baseball web log or publishing medium such as Batters Box, Twin Killings, Sabernomics, Rep. Level Yankees Web Log., Synatiptic Flatulence, etc.

I have not written anything any baseball related content for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox News, Free Republic, or any other magazine or periodical.

I don’t have any radio show or television show related to the sport of baseball.

In fact, I think I have written one and only one thing that was intended to be published on this matter.  I think you have a copy of that document.

I post to discuss baseball.  But when I first started doing this, your three buddies: Treder, Davis and McCracken made it abundantly clear that I needed to suit up.  Because if I wasn’t towing the line, you are going to get the Ross treatment.  So I suited up.  And I pretty much insulate myself from their sophmoric logic attacks, even though Voros pulled out the old school word count flame.

And now, I get all kinds of wild arguments attributed to me.  I get imbued with this responsibility to explain things at a class room level to some of the kids.  I get about the same amount of insults, so that is pretty constant.  I get guys like strong silence telling me that I am a big fish.  I get guys like Field who believe I have the burden to produce a professional level journal proof to even suggest radical thoughts like teams are largely responsible for their wins and losses.  I get people that want to send me to Del Carnegie.

But I’m not Rebel Squad leader.  If people want to project every argument they think they have on me, I’ll deal with it.  But, I’m not going to be Ms. Manners as well.

For at least the third time, nobody ever has or ever will disagree with this. My disagreement is not with your statement—it’s true—but with its relevance. What I’m talking about is the ability to predict in advance.

Well, I’m glad people aren’t disagreeing it here, but people have disagreed with it in the past.  As for relevance, as I’ve stated its relevant to how people are using the term “luck”.

I don’t think anyone is proposing that baseball games are a result of pre-destiny, we aren’t having a theological conversation.  And even if we were, I don’t think anyone would think us mere mortals don’t recognized uncertainty.  And then you have others who don’t even think its proper to submit hypothesis, you must PROVE such radical thoughts as the buck stopping in the general managers office or a pitcher being able to control the outcome of an at bat.

But as I’ve expressed, luck is a mere statement showing someone has had bad fortune.  It is not an excuse for performance.  If you want to maintain that someone in a management position does not have responsibility, feel free, but its not “because anything can happen.”

By your very statement of shifting a burden on someone for exploring causation, which may or may not be external to control, to having to make an affirmative proof is a tangent of the exact phenomena that I am talking about.

If you say that not having baserunning was a factor that hurt the A’s in x playoff series.  You’ll have Danny Fanboy googling and discrediting the argument if you get the year wrong.  You’ll have casts of 1000s saying, it wasn’t baserunning, it was luck, as if luck was the causal force that just has it end for the A’s.  Luck is not causation.

And if your objection is on relevance , who on earth are you bringing up sub-atomic particles and attributing a position to both me and Albert Einstein that neighter one of us have ever held.

168. 185/456(GGC) Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:30 PM (#1669113)

I was thinking that Dontrelle, or other pitchers, would be better hitters if they were doing it every day.

I would lean towards this position.  I think that Joe Sheehan or one of the BPro guys mentioned something about this about a year ago and it stuck in my head.  IIRC, they said that players who could be either hitters or pitchers should be tried as hitters first, because it was easier to go back to pitching after a layoff than it was to go back to hitting.

169. DCA Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:30 PM (#1669115)

Everyone understood you the first time, and the response showed your specific errors in arriving at your result. And you make the same errors the second time around. Instead of correcting yourself, you “explain” it again. And in the process start manufacturing all kinds of sh1t that other people have said.

BL,

When I opine about the law, I expect that you have a lot more knowledge than I do, and I welcome any correlation.  But recognize that some of us do have quite a bit of experience with systems analysis and statistical and other quantitative modeling and evaluation, and it takes a lot more than “because I say so” and have a good vocabulary to convince me that you’re right.  This is not an appeal to authority, fwiw, just a note that while it many cases I will take you at your word and logic because I trust it, in this case, I trust my own experience and skills.

You have failed to convince me that your selecting of the A’s to then “prove” that they are structurally no good at the playoffs because they lost is independent of the fact that you knew of those losses beforehand, and that is the important point.  Maybe, way back in 1999, you thought, this “fatfukk softball team” is so bad, that even when they win 100 games looking like the ‘93 Phillies and then start embracing pitching and defense, they will choke in every postseason series.  If that’s the case, congratulations, you were right.  If not, then you’re failing to account for familywise error.

170. spivey Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:33 PM (#1669122)

Danny: I agree they’d get better at hitting if they practiced it more. But some of these guys with good arms (who throw around 85-92 mph, just as a guess) might be able to develop at least 1 other pitch if they practiced it all the time.

171. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:36 PM (#1669131)

Wes Ferrell.

172. RP Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:41 PM (#1669137)

If it’s true that a run saved is worth slightly more than a run scored, does it follow that you should pick a player with a proven ability to prevent runs? i.e., either a pitcher or a guy like Ozzie Smith?

173. Derrick Jensen Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:42 PM (#1669140)

Actually, I think Aaron is the guy. I have to assume, since we’re having this imaginary one guy at 9 positions that we’re taking the player at their peak/prime. Aaron was plus defense, good hands, strong arm and great offense.

I presume, of course, that the Aaron you’re talking about is Boone, right?

****
Don’t worry, that was a joke. I know you’re really talking about Tommy Aaron.

Derrick

174. DCA Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:43 PM (#1669147)

er ... I welcome any correction.

175. cseadog Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:48 PM (#1669153)

Current player: Tim Hudson—what he did at Auburn was remarkable. Pitch game one and then play CF and bat cleanup for the rest of the series. Kotsay would be another good choice,but his lefthandedness would get in the way.

Mantle had a hose, but was converted from ss because of errors (primarily throwing).  I doubt he would have been a good pitcher.

Ruth is the best choice.  When you are the best in the game at both hitting and pitching, that trumps handedness.

176. 185/456(GGC) Posted: October 07, 2005 at 06:55 PM (#1669171)

I post to discuss baseball. But when I first started doing this, your three buddies: Treder, Davis and McCracken made it abundantly clear that I needed to suit up.

What gives you the idea any of these guys are my buddies?  I’ve e-mailed back and forth with Treder, but I don’t think that I ever interacted with Voros or Walt.  They probably wouldn’t care for me anyways.

So, basically, your beef with them isn’t that they are proposing an evil agenda, but that they were brusque to you.  Yeah, I remember that from your site bio, now that you mention it.  I’d get over it eventually, but I’m not gonna tell you what to do.  I’m more upset right now that you called these guys my buddies than anything else.  Other than Steve, I wouldn’t know them from Adam.

177. strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:00 PM (#1669181)

But as I’ve expressed, luck is a mere statement showing someone has had bad fortune. It is not an excuse for performance.

I strongly agree. Who is responsible when the sure-out groundball hits the pebble? The fielder. He must make sure he is prepared and must make sure his work space is correct for the task.

I’m still baffled that Tejada stopped running. He had total control of that play even after he was obstructed. The first law of high school sports is to play until you hear the whistle. Maybe he was sick that day.

178. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:02 PM (#1669187)

BL : I post to discuss baseball.

Do you?  I mean, I know you do occasionally.  But (and please forgive my amateur psychoanalysis) it seems to me you’d get much more pleasure out of this place if you discussed baseball more.  You seem to really like baseball.

And I still think you should join SABR.  Your skeptical aptitude would be a valuable addition to the organization however you took part, and there’s no end to the baseball.  It ain’t about stats, you know.

179. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:08 PM (#1669198)

I strongly agree. Who is responsible when the sure-out groundball hits the pebble? The fielder. He must make sure he is prepared and must make sure his work space is correct for the task.

I just don’t buy this.  When McNeely’s crappy little grounder hits a pebble and bounces over Lindstrom’s head, and the Giants lose the World Series, that’s luck.  Fate, maybe.  Because you could do everything exactly right, and still get bit.

That doesn’t mean that the Senators won the ‘24 Series on luck.  The luck wasn’t a sufficient condition, and it might not have even been necessary.  But the Giants could legitimately say they were unlucky.

180. strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:08 PM (#1669200)

And now, I get all kinds of wild arguments attributed to me.

This is unfortunate but true. It’s unfortunate that people can’t set aside their agendas (whether it’s to defend a hero or a favorite GM) to try to view the evidence objectively.

Speaking for myself, it’s difficult sometimes to ignore BL’s argumentative and confrontational tone. But the debates are worthwhile for those who can rise above the name-calling and spite.

181.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:09 PM (#1669204)

That much is trivial. However, in order to have a basis to criticize Oakland (and their GM), there had to be a reason to predict their struggles.

No, its that philosophy that leads to the problem.

(1) Oakland lost those 4 series
(2) There are casual reasons that Oakland lost those series.
(3) Luck is not causation.  There is uncertainty in results that decreases as time gets to 0.

Thus, what you expressly want to do is figure out why they lost.  Any attempt to do this thing leads people to defend Oakland like finding the causation attacks their very system of belief.  They can’t seperate out causation from responsibility.

So you already get to anomosity before you even begin to attribute responsibility.

This is not only true for the A’s but any beloved team.

182. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:15 PM (#1669212)

And by the way, BL, what you said about how you were received here really kind of hit home to me just now.  I was probably (almost definitely) a jerk to you at some point, and setting aside who did what to whom first and all that crap, I just want to apologise for that.  If all you wanted to do was talk about stuff, then I am sorry.

183. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:16 PM (#1669215)

And the same goes for RETARDO, if he’s listening.  I’m sure he is.  These things aren’t worth spilling blood over, even if it’s electron blood.

184. strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:19 PM (#1669219)

Because you could do everything exactly right

Did Lindstrom do everything exactly right? Because those grounders that do find the glove, no one talks about luck.

We can use regular season performance to predict “everything exactly right.” We can see habits, character flaws, etc. This evidence would help explain “causality” and remove “luck” as an explanation.

Ichiro does this extremely well. Remember that flyball that Jose Cruz lost because he slipped on wet turf - in the 2002 World Series? Well he slipped because he was casual and or lazy in getting to the right spot. Ichiro would have been there 2 seconds prior to the ball so that if he slipped he would have had time to recover and make the out.

185. spivey Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:19 PM (#1669220)

There are casual reasons that Oakland lost those series.

It depends on how you define luck. I think when something happens that was not likely to occur based on probability, I define it as luck (or lack of luck). So, when poor hitters are getting hits off a great pitcher, that’s the cause for losing. But, it was unlucky in the sense that probalistically it shouldn’t have happened as much as it did.

186.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:22 PM (#1669223)

Thus, what you expressly want to do is figure out why they lost.

Initially, anyway. Then - if you are Billy Beane - what you want to do is to try to figure out whether it’s worth expending resources to address whatever it was that caused you to lose (assuming that it’s something within your control), or whether you should just ignore it and hope that next time it won’t bite you like it did this time, because (for whatever reason) it’s not worth it to you to expend your resources to fix it.

—MWE

187. Rally Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:25 PM (#1669228)

I can’t say what the cause of losing the 2000-02 series were (other than the fact that when 2 good teams play, one of them has to lose - it doesn’t mean they weren’t good)

For 2003, the cause is obvious: brainless baserunning of Tejada and Byrnes.

The A’s have fallen out of the playoffs for other reasons, but that specific problem has been addressed.  Both bird-brained baserunners are now at home with the Orioles.

188.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:29 PM (#1669234)

But, it was unlucky in the sense that probalistically it shouldn’t have happened as much as it did.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t try to identify and (where possible) address the causal factors behind what happened. Just because something unlikely happens doesn’t mean there wasn’t a real reason why it happened.

—MWE

189. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:32 PM (#1669239)

Uh, are you talking about Derek Jeter?

The “injuries” comment only meant Yount and Molitor. Sorry it was ambiguous.

I just don’t buy this. When McNeely’s crappy little grounder hits a pebble and bounces over Lindstrom’s head, and the Giants lose the World Series, that’s luck. Fate, maybe. Because you could do everything exactly right, and still get bit.

I may be wrong, but I read 178 as sarcasm.

I get guys like Field who believe I have the burden to produce a professional level journal proof

No, just some evidence.

to even suggest radical thoughts like teams are largely responsible for their wins and losses.

No.

Well, I’m glad people aren’t disagreeing it here, but people have disagreed with it in the past.

I doubt people disagreed with the statement “The Oakland A’s lost 4 straight playoff series.” That statement is true. The only ground of disagreement is whether or not those losses were predictable in advance.

I don’t think anyone is proposing that baseball games are a result of pre-destiny

Agreed.

luck is a mere statement showing someone has had bad fortune. It is not an excuse for performance.

Again, I prefer the term “unpredictable”. But this is the crux of the disagreement. I believe that sometimes it’s unpredictable.

If you want to maintain that someone in a management position does not have responsibility, feel free, but its not “because anything can happen.”

Take this up with Stan Kasten. I’m only quoting him.

By your very statement of shifting a burden on someone for exploring causation,

Not at all. By no means would I discourage someone from exploring the issue. That’s where greatness lies. But I would discourage someone from insisting on it without at least providing some evidence.

190. spivey Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:34 PM (#1669242)

But that doesn’t mean you don’t try to identify and (where possible) address the causal factors behind what happened. Just because something unlikely happens doesn’t mean there wasn’t a real reason why it happened.

of course. I mentioned upthread I thought there were reasons why Oakland may underperform in the playoffs relative to their regular season record.

191. Rally Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:34 PM (#1669244)

Is it worth it to address your shortcomings in such a way?  In the case of Tejada, not resigning a power hitting shortstop because he’ll make some baserunning blunders now and then?

(I know they had decided not to resign him long before the playoffs, just trying to make a point)

You fix one problem, but create a much bigger problem - not having Tejada in your lineup.  The better approach is when shiite happens, you don’t overreact, and try again the next year.

If Vladimir makes a crazy baserunning play (something he’ll do now and then) and it cost the Angels the series vs NY, they won’t get rid of him for 2006.

192. Mefisto Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:35 PM (#1669246)

I may be wrong

And now I read 185 and see that I am.

193. Sam M. Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:36 PM (#1669248)

(2) There are casual reasons that Oakland lost those series.
(3) Luck is not causation. There is uncertainty in results that decreases as time gets to 0.

As to (2), certainly.  The reasons were not the same from series to series, but there were reasons.  That, of course, doesn’t tell us which of those “reasons” correlated to a judgment reached or a decision made by Beane, Howe, or one or more of the A’s players.  Nor does it tell us—as to those reasons that were tied to such a judgment or decision—which of those judgments and decisions can also said either to have been wrong at the time, or even with the benefit of hindsight.

As for (3) . . . I’m not sure what it means.  Of course, “luck” is not causation.  Causation describes a relationship between Event A (Smith shoots a gun) and Event B (Jones dies).  Luck can either be A or B—luck can cause something, and luck can be caused by something.*  But luck is not itself causation.

Luck is usually not a sole cause of anything.  Luck wasn’t the only reason that the A’s lost those four series, any more than it was the only reason that the Orioles lost Game 5 to the Mets in 1969 after Al Weis hit a lucky home run.  But it can be a contributing cause.

In my usual attempt to bridge gaps, I would suggest this:

Any attempt to propose luck as the explanation for the A’s fate in place of serious examination of the judgments made by the key A’s decision-makers is grossly misguided.  (I think this is really what BL is objecting to; not the statement that the A’s had some bad breaks, but using that as if it is—to quote Regis Philbin—the “final answer.”)

Any attempt to exclude bad luck entirely as having contributed to the A’s fate is equally misguided.  (Teams DO run into misfortune, the occurence of events beyond their control and which no reasonable person would have foreseen and taken action to prevent.  BL need not deny this point in order to make his argument that we should look beyond it and take a fair look at what WAS within Beane’s control and what he SHOULD have foreseen.)

* - As an example of this, consider the 1985 Kansas City Royals.  Their luck in being alive to smash the Cardinals in Game 7 was caused by Don Denkinger’s blown call in Game 6.

194.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:42 PM (#1669263)

Well, the closer you get to dead even, the more you almost have to attribute to luck.  When you lose the 1990 World Series in four straight (I realize the Reds were good, but Oakland won 103 that year and was on a 8-game postseason winning streak of their own), you can look at it and say, dang, those Cincy guys are the hottest pitchers anyone’s ever seen, they cleaned our clocks.

When you lose the 1991 Series on a bloop hit in the tenth inning of the seventh game, what do you say?  For want of a nail, certainly: if you’d just built a deeper and stronger bullpen and hadn’t had to go with Alejandro Pena on fumes ... but realistically, you just shrug and say well, but for the grace of God and Jack Morris, I would be holding that trophy.  The fact that everything in the universe has a cause and there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow does not mean that the tossups fit into the same conceptual category as the walkovers.

195. 185/456(GGC) Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:43 PM (#1669265)

* - As an example of this, consider the 1985 Kansas City Royals. Their luck in being alive to smash the Cardinals in Game 7 was caused by Don Denkinger’s blown call in Game 6.

That was my favorite World Series in my living memory prior to last year’s.  I’m in a better mood now after a bank run and am looking to return to my twin roles as the Switzerland and Columbo of BTF.

196.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:43 PM (#1669266)

And once again, Sam writes more quickly and eloquently than I do, with better examples :)

197.  Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:52 PM (#1669278)

This is not an appeal to authority, fwiw

Really.  That sounded exactly like an appeal to authority.

It also sounds like more of the same.  You have even made presumptions about what I do, have done, and what training I have.  And again you miss the boat on all marks.

You have failed to convince me that your selecting of the A’s to then “prove” that they are structurally no good at the playoffs because they lost is independent of the fact that you knew of those losses beforehand, and that is the important point.

If that is the most important point, you might want to restate it.  I hope that people are reading your posts, because sooner or later, somebody will claim, “who did that” and try to send me off on a googling expedition.  YOu are saving me a lot of trouble.

(1) My objective is rarely to PROVE anything.  The idea that you, Field, and others have expressly posited that in order to begin an investigation or posit a hypothesis, you must conduct a proof is absurd on its face.  And if that becomes the threshhold then you have got your de facto groupthink.  You want to challenge some wildasss saber theory that no one accepts, you have to prove it wrong.  That standard doesn’t exist for those proposing the wildasss theory, just anyone that wants to come on baseball primer.  You don’t even speak unless you are offering a full form proof.

And Mr. Daly, that is why this is not limited to getting over Davis, Treder and McCracken.

(2) Sweet Lord Jesus, what is your training in, because where I went to school the mantra was “Forecasting is for Finance Majors”  Forecasting is such a tiny, itty, bitty little part of analysis.  Yet, the prevalent thought here is if you didn’t forecast it, you can’t talk about it.  If you search for causation you get all such witticisms as “20/20 Hindsight” , but you will get that anyway even if the moderate mathematicians back you into when you have to make a forecast and you do predict the event.  I’m interested, how many of these saber souls out here really buy into this.  That searches for causation shouldn’t be done.  The only thing you are allowed to do is forecast.  Then if you are right you can go “neener, neener” and if you are wrong, you can go, “It was just bad luck.”  That is the entire high level premise of this argument.  I’d rather find causes, most just want to project their skill and experience above the unwashed masses.

If you listen to me about a legal point, listen to it because its right.  Not because I am a professed expert.

(3) But for the record, I doubt I knew or cared that the A’s were flawed beforehand.  If they were, they were, if they weren’t, they weren’t.  When they started winning, they were just a new exciting team.  That reminds me of Cleveland, that could or could not be flawed at the moment.  Right now, they are exciting, and I’ll tip my cap to their architects.

But you can be damn sure that when they either do or don’t succeed, I will look retrospectively at the team.  I’ll try to figure out what did or did not contribute to their success, and if they are in the middle of their run, I might project and forecast successes or flaws.  If people start worshipping at the Shapiro altar like they did Beane.  Proclaiming genius and modifying analysis to promote His name, I’ll become just as amused as I have with Beane.

I guess in your experience and education, they taught you it was bad to luck for casual forces based on closed event spaces.  I was taught that it was a worthwhile endevor and its the means to create decision and intelligent systems.

(4) I’m not sure how many times I have to say this before its understood.  The A’s lost games.  There are casual reasons for them having lost games.

There is nothing circular about that statement.  Nothing whatsoever.  If you think you can rebut it, then you have to say that losing the games was not due to causation.  Which means that you either have to argue some modified version of regularity, or you have to attribute another force that shapes outcomes.

So you want to use this vapid term of “luck” as the reason they lost games. So I want to know:  Is luck the causation, or is it the non-causative extra mysterious force?  Its a simple question, so I’d prefer a straight answer.  I don’t want another treatise representation of I think so and so. I don’t want to hear about what arguments you think I’ve made.  Do you believe there was no causation; Do you believe the causation is luck; or does this luck have some other worldly metaphysical component.  Because where I grew up, luck just described a series of bad fortune.  It didn’t have such properties.

And if you don’t want to make your luck argument, then you have identified causal properties.  If you have the whole set of all causes for each failure, and any one cause appears in each loss, its by definition a systematic cause.  So tell me what’s left when you do E= A int. B. int. C. int. D.  I’m betting E is not a null set.

Once you find E, then we can determine whether E can be rectified, the cost for rectification, and the contribution for winning for each e that is an element of E.  Then we can make a determination of whether we are going to fix any subset of E.

Then we can determine whether this subset should have been known.  We can do this by applying various types of Plans to a closed event space THAT DOES NOT IGNORE ANY INFORMATION.  And these plans are discrete, no “search of knowledge” or “exploit market ineffeciencies”  Each must be actionable.  And we can name them if you like, we’ll call them Old School, Coxonne, Saber, Neo Saber, Shapiro, anything you want, just as long as they don’t move around.

And then we can decide whether another plan would have produced better outcome.  And then we can start assigning responsibility.

And if we do that on enough sets of data, we can start determining how to plan optimize based on input criteria.  So not just the A’s, we’ll do it on everybody.

Then we might have a pretty good idea about how to optimize certain aspects of this endevor.  Not as a means of a “Neener Neener”, but for the betterment of the game itself.

Now, realizing that you are an expert on this subject, I’m interested in what your vast skills, experience and training tell you that you are supposed to do.

198. DCA Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:53 PM (#1669279)

(1) Oakland lost those 4 series

Yes.

(2) There are casual reasons that Oakland lost those series.

Yes.

(3) Luck is not causation. There is uncertainty in results that decreases as time gets to 0.

No.  If Tejada’s baserunning gaffe is the proximal cause of the A’s losing the last series, then luck did play a huge role, and could be the major underlying cause.  Plays like that, regardless of resolution, are rare events the like of which are highly unlikely to occur in a single game or short series, and I would contend, independent of the team’s abilities.  That the event happened in a playoff game instead of july series is largely due to luck.  Futhermore, the ump blew the call on Tejada—by the rules, his stopping running does not affect whether or not he is awarded home plate, that decision happens at the time of the foul.  Unless there is some skill to not getting a freak play happen to you and not having the umpire botch the call so that the players’ response to the foul affects the outcome of the play when by rules it shouldn’t, this is largely due to luck.

Yes, there is an uncertainty in results that goes to zero as the games play themselves to conclusion.  I do not debate that, and no one should, really.  And I understand your not wanting to label the difference: actual result - E(result) as luck, but (i) from Beane’s POV, *if* he can calculate E(result) well, it is luck.  He doesn’t, after all, play the games (ii) pure chance may be an underlying cause of the actual result.

199. strong silence Posted: October 07, 2005 at 07:56 PM (#1669284)

178 wasn’t sarcasm. Thanks for being patient.

My point is that it is extremely difficult to know if it is luck that placed the pebble in front of the ball or whether indifference, laziness or carelessness were the underlying causes.

I suggest that we can know because we have evidence of player behavior from the hundreds of games played. In the Tejada baserunning blunder, perhaps not. Maybe he had never encountered that situation before. Yet, was there some other evidence that was observed or observable?

200. Srul Itza Posted: October 07, 2005 at 08:00 PM (#1669290)

against specific tenants that is found in Beane’s book

BL = Joe Morgan?  Who knew.

I gotta go with A-Rod among current players for the 9 man team.  He has a strong arm, so he could probably be a pitcher; he is a gold glove caliber shortstop, so you could play him at pretty much every position; and he hits like a slugging first baseman.  He occupies both end of the offense/defense spectrum.

And of course there is no such thing as luck.  There is, however, plenty of randomness in the universe.  At least, in my universe.  Your universe is a dark and scary place, and I refuse to go there.

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