The dominant arms of Octobers long ago are broken down mechanically.
The thrills of the 2014 postseason have harkened memories of my childhood, when every playoff game carried extra significance due to my lack of postseason experience. Back then, it seemed that each World Series was personified by a single starting pitcher who led his club to victory, and the awards reflect that particular narrative – a starting pitcher was named the MVP in six of the seven World Series from 1985 to 1991, yet starters have accounted for just five of the 21 series' MVP awards since.
Classifying the fans you'll see in the stands for the next three games of the World Series.
The following originally ran two years ago today. With two exceptions—the seventh word of the piece, and the section on the woman in the Marlins jersey who turned out to be a dude in a Marlins jersey, and who we now know much, much more about—it's just as true today, so we hope you'll enjoy it anew.
You will be spending the next two days with the AT&T crowd, so you might as well get to know who they are. While a stadium of 43,000 can hold countless types, the culture of the park can be pretty well summed up by just a few of them.
A look at how to avoid allowing biases to influence your projections.
As soon as the baseball season comes to its inevitable and saddening end, baseball, as it does each year, will enter the offseason. For the fantasy baseball community, this means we will be entering ranking and projection season. After following “our players” and players of interest all season, we are now asked to take an all-encompassing look at the league’s baseball players. The result of doing projections periodically, as opposed to continuously, is that we are likely to invite certain biases into our processes, which can negatively impact our results. We will take a look at why we do periodic projections, the biases that come with such a process, how these biases manifest themselves, and some ways to hopefully de-bias our process.
The devil’s advocate in me asks, “if periodic projections causes certain problems, why not do continuous projections?” The short answer is that doing continuous projections is not feasible or desirable for most of us. A computer program could certainly perform continuous projections, but we—as mere people (note: people are awesome)—do not have the ability to continuously adjust our valuations on such a large scale. Sure, each time we watch, read about, or hear about a player, our impression of said player will be altered or reinforced consciously or subconsciously, but that is not what I am getting at. Rather, what I mean is that we cannot watch all players play every one of their plays, and we cannot fully analyze all of what we see or all of the available data. The result of all this humanness is that we can really only fully update our projections on a league-wide basis come decision times; those being the offseason for auctions and drafts, as well as, to some extent, the trade deadline. While we constantly update our valuations for the players we follow, my assumption is that very few people follow every player and those who do probably do not do so diligently enough to properly continuously update each player’s projection.
When the glow is gone, how will Royals fans measure the years of losing against the weeks on top?
The Royals have come to the World Series out of nowhere. As recently as July 22nd, they were a sub-.500 team. Also, the Royals have been planning on making exactly this type of postseason conquest for the better part of a decade.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Kaleb Cowart and Jace Peterson.
Wei-Chung Wang, LHP, Brewers (Glendale, AFL): 4 IP, 3 H, R (0 BB), BB, 2 K. Wang had no business being in the majors last year, but he was forced to stay there for an extended period of time due to his Rule Five status. The Brewers liked him enough that they spent a portion of the year with a short bullpen in an attempt to retain his rights.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels (Mesa, AFL): 2-3, R, 3B, BB. One of the few guys thought to have major-league tools in what has become the weakest farm system in baseball, Cowart has disappointed in back-to-back seasons while repeating Double-A. There is a reason why the upper minors are considered the hardest jump to make on the developmental ladder, and Cowart’s lack of patience and power outside the California League has been exposed the past two seasons in the Texas League.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Max Kepler and Darnell Sweeney.
Darnell Sweeney, 2B, Dodgers (Glendale, AFL): 4-5, 2 R, 2 2B, HR. Expectations were tempered entering the season because scouts weren’t crazy about any of Sweeney’s tools outside of his speed, and because his breakout 2013 season came in the California League. Then, he spent the entire 2014 campaign excelling in Double-A, greatly increasing his walk rate and backing up his power production. For a plus runner, he’s not an effective base-stealer, which negates some of his value, but he made better contact while also making the toughest jump along the developmental process. After spending most of his time at shortstop last year, Sweeney played more second base this year and saw some time in center field. His speed and versatility could be something the Dodgers can use in the future, especially if his plate discipline remains intact.
Garabez Rosa, LF, Orioles (Glendale, AFL): 3-4, 2 R, HR. Rosa swings at virtually everything, to little effect. The Orioles continue to give him opportunities because there is some pop in his bat and he can play virtually ever non-catcher position on the diamond (including shortstop), but a career minor league K:BB ratio of over 10-to-1 (yes, you read that right) is borderline criminal and will be enough to keep him from ever hitting effectively. (h/t to @tuckerblairON)
The Giants first baseman hit for more power in 2014, but injuries held him back.
An unheralded fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft, Belt emerged onto the prospect scene in 2010 after crushing High-A and Double-A pitching in his first professional season. He followed suit in 2011 in Triple-A, forcing his way to San Francisco by midseason. That's when the #FreeBelt movement started, as the Baby Giraffe received just 472 PA in 2012 despite hitting .275/.360/.421, hinting at promising power and boasting an 11.4 percent walk rate.
Belt was subsequently liberated in 2013, hitting .289/.360/.481 in 571 PA, finishing as fantasy's 16th-best first baseman. Given that Belt was entering his age-26 season this year, there was legitimate reason for optimism. His average draft position was no. 137 overall, according to fantasypros.com, and it wasn't totally unreasonable to project Belt for a top-12 finish at the position, if everything broke right.
The Royals staff threw some major heat and every key moment went their way as they snagged Game Two and evened the World Series at a game apiece.
Sometime before a parade broke out on the path from the visiting bullpen and well before a fight, or more accurately a halfhearted inter-dugout posturing contest, broke out around home plate, the Futures Game broke out at Kauffman Stadium.
After months of moving downward, the October strike zone is suddenly rising.
Everybody’s been writing about the strike zone recently, and that’s for good reason. The strike zone is evolving, and for the first time in the history of baseball, we have the technology to directly record that evolution. Mostly, the bottom of the strike zone is dropping, and that plays some role in shaping the current pitching-dominated era (although exactly how much of a role is a matter of some debate).
What’s most astonishing about the strike zone’s changing definition is the rapidity with which we are witnessing the results. Year after year, the strike zone falls, and this year has been no exception. In this recent article, Jon Roegele chronicles the most dramatic drop in the bottom of the strike zone yet: In the last year, the zone’s real estate has increased by 16 square inches. But even without a rigorous statistical analysis of the zone, you could feel the impact of the strike zone’s accelerating fall in the numerous strikeout records which have been broken, and in the historic seasons of Clayton Kershaw and other pitchers.