Aces are chewed up and spit out, so we try to step between the raindrops that melt DFS point totals
Early-season grenades have blown up the stat lines of some of the game's top arms, including Clayton Kershaw, Jordan Zimmermann, and Madison Bumgarner. Add Jon Lester to the list after yesterday's six-run shellacking, an outing that stung DFS gamers who saw the left-hander as a safe choice due to: A) his being one of the top pitchers taking the hill that day, B) his having the massive platoon advantage against Cincy sluggers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and C) his facing a depleted lineup that was without Devin Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton.
How do you fit an entire baseball game in a small rectangle?
Jesse Krailler runs Modern Box Score, which is experimenting with a new way of visualizing everything that happened in a baseball game. We're big fans of it, so we asked him to take us through the designs he discarded and the decisions he made.
Data visualization is hot right now. Very hot. DataVis, as the cool kids call it, is so hot that there seems to be a conference on the subject in a major city once I week. I am in an airport, returning from one such conference. That fact is only relevant to this story, because this week’s conference was the second I’ve had the pleasure of attending in person, and the first is where this whole thing got started.
In the fall of 2013, I attended a large Data Visualization conference that had a small afternoon session on sports visualizations. Most of the presenters were discussing work they had done with sports primarily popular in Europe – namely soccer and rugby. The only U.S.-based presenters had done their work in either basketball or football. With baseball having, by far, the most publicly available historic data, I was surprised that it didn’t even make an appearance in this session.
One of the presentations I watched that day was an attempt to illustrate the individual performance of soccer players over the course of a game. The developers were using a series of glyphs representing players to show things like time of possession, shots and fouls. There's little variety to events that happen in a soccer match, so the amount of information to glean from the visualization wasn’t huge.
I got back to my room that night with these presentations stuck in my head. Baseball, I thought, is desperately lacking for interesting visualizations. I’m willing to bet that 95 percent of baseball analytics articles contain, at most, heat maps and/or scatter plots. Most of them are just text and tables. While these articles contain great analysis and insights, many don’t keep my attention. I like pictures. Pretty ones, at that.
Between major-league games (almost all in my city of residence, Cincinnati) and minor league games within driving distance, I usually get to watch 5-15 games live each season. Contrary to my anti-hoarding approach to life, I have a file drawer full of scorecards from games that I’ve attended. What I like about these scorecards, and the reason I save them, is that they give me enough information to recreate the game in my head. When I become senile, my only earthly possessions will be these scorecards, and I will play these games over and over in my mind’s eye. I’ll pretend that I remember being there, but I can’t possibly, and it won’t matter because I have all the information I need to keep that illusion alive.
A look at how the wise guys spent their money in expert leagues this week.
Depending on how long you have been a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, welcome or welcome back to the Expert FAAB Review. Every week, I’m going to take a look at the players and the process behind the bidding in LABR mixed, Tout Wars NL, and either LABR AL or Tout Wars AL (I will alternate every week). Bret Sayre and I participate in LABR mixed while I have a team in Tout Wars NL, so I can provide some insights behind the reasoning on the bids. Budgets in all three leagues start at $100 at the beginning of the season.
Random Quote of the Week
“Remember that old Schoolhouse Rock cartoon about the bill who sings a song about how he becomes a law? Hey, and what about the Snorks? Remember them?” – America (the book)
Examining the results to date from three players for whom Nick had high expectations entering the season.
While it’s hard to take a lot of meaning from the super early season results, today I’ll look at a couple of players and a pitcher that I was higher on than most people were entering the season and gauge their season outlook. We begin with two players who were integral to my strategy in the My Model Portfolio series: J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts.
Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.
Jenrry Mejia Suspended 80 Games
Continuing the trend of MLB players getting suspended for the throwback steroid Stanozolol, Mejia tested positive last week. He was already on the 15-day disabled list, which I wrote about last week, but this obviously pushes him back even further. It adds a little protection to Jeurys Familia’s job, but not much. As I said last week, Bobby Parnell is gearing up to start his rehab assignment, and should be back on the roster in a couple of weeks. Familia has almost certainly been picked up in your leagues by now, but if Parnell is still available and you can afford to stash him, he could pay off relatively soon.
Toronto Shakes Up Their Bullpen
Well, I’ve had my first way-off prediction of the year. When the Blue Jays named Brett Cecil their closer, I confidently stated he would hold on to the job for the majority of the year. So much for that. This past week, John Gibbons took Cecil out of the role and handed the job to 20-year-old Miguel Castro. He hadn’t pitched above High-A coming into this season, but he’s looked good in the early going this year. Gibbons did indicate that part of the reason for the move was to get Cecil back on track with his mechanics. That, combined with Castro’s inexperience, could mean another move could be made relatively quickly, so don’t go dropping Cecil just yet in deep leagues.
Every season has its Sabermetric bellwether issue. Trout vs. Cabrera. The infield shift. Catcher framing. Joey Votto in the two-hole. But before all that, there was Tony La Russa hitting the pitcher in the eighth spot in the lineup. La Russa, when he managed the Cardinals, was known to be willing to experiment a bit to gain an edge. Then again, during his A’s days, La Russa was credited with “inventing” the modern bullpen and Dennis Eckersley. In 1993, he even tried a pitching strategy which had three groups of three pitchers each that worked a three-day rotation. The experiment lasted a week, but he gave it a shot. But now, the La Russa gambit of hitting the pitcher eighth is back.
Notes on Byron Buxton, Corey Seager, Nomar Mazara, and more.
Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Chattanooga, AA): 4-6, R, 2B, 3B, CS. It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve been able to rave about Buxton. Sure, he’s still the top prospect in all of baseball, but it doesn’t feel like it right? It’s difficult to be overlooked when you’re at the top, but given the plethora of Cubs prospects dominating the prospect landscape, the strength of the Twins system surrounding Buxton, and the general lack of attention span of all of us, it’s easy to see why we’ve forgotten about Buxton to a certain extent. After an injury-riddled 2014 campaign, we’re still in virtually the same place we were a year ago with Buxton. With a Double-A challenge lying ahead of him, a healthy season of Buxton will tell us a lot about his development. Clearly, the tools are still well intact.
Sometimes home/road splits matter outside of Denver...
Opening Week has come and gone, and the craziness of week one was equal parts small-sample expectancy and player-adjustment reality. It served as yet another reminder that these players are not robots, and there is no evidence like the field of play. It also served as a reminder of the volatility inherent in the season's first week, and that a single start of in-game evaluation can sometimes carry more weight than an entire off-season full of post hoc analysis.