Just as I did last year, I'm here to follow up the HACKING MASS Wrap with a look at this year's Predictatron results. This is the second year we've done the Predictatron contest, and it continues to be popular, for obvious reasons--trying to predict the order of finish and teams' eventual records is one of the oldest hobbies of baseball fans.
For those that haven't had the pleasure to compete, Predictatron is the annual contest at Baseball Prospectus where entrants can win $500 by predicting the total wins for each of the 30 major league teams, and the results of the playoffs. Basic scoring is set up so that everyone starts with 1000 points, and you lose points for every win you are off for each team; you can win points back with the playoffs. There are also a few wrinkles, like the Mortal Lock, so I'd encourage everyone to read the full rules.
Scoresheet can be a tough mistress, as BP's Celebrity Scoresheet League crowns a champion.
Kaline Standings, Pitching WL pct. GB
4 Las Vegas Red Sox 86 76 .531 -
10 Page 42s 85 77 .525 1
1 STL Golden Bears 83 79 .512 3
7 Inwood 73 89 .451 13
Fox Standings, Pitching WL pct. GB
11 Street Walkers 80 82 .494 -
2 Tutankhamun 78 84 .481 2
8 Wolfcastle Rainiers 77 85 .475 3
5 KG 73 89 .451 7
Ruth Standings, Pitching WL pct. GB
3 Montclair Red Sox 92 70 .568 -
9 Jonah Keri 85 77 .525 7
6 Royale with Ortiz 82 80 .506 10
12 RotoWire 78 84 .481 14
If you just checked out the July update, these standings may look vaguely familiar. In fact, no one in either the Kaline or Fox divisions managed to move up or down since that July article. It is worth noting, though, that second- and third-place teams made up a lot of ground, and both the Las Vegas Red Sox (Dave Cokin) and the Street Walkers (Sam Walker) barely staved off their competition.
The Kaline division saw a heated battle down the stretch. Indeed, in the words of Dave Mlodinoff, half of the Page 42s: "We got killed during the last week--swept by Joe and Rany, two last-place teams. I think it was our only 0-6 week of the year--great timing, no? Even one win that week (or at any point) would have given us the division title over Cokin, due to tiebreakers."
The Street Walkers managed to "win" the Fox Division, despite their losing record and only the 7th-best record in the league. The team was fortunate to be in the same division as the team with the highest ERA (Tutankhamun), the team that scored the second-fewest runs (the Wolfcastle Rainiers), and the team tied for the worst record in the league (KG).
Jonah Keri's team made the biggest improvement since the July update, adeptly trading players to go from four games under .500 to eight games over, enough to garner a share of the wild card. He wasn't able to catch Peter King's team in the Ruth Division, however, as the Montclair Red Sox maintained their seven-game lead that they had in July en route to finishing with the best record in the league by a sizable margin.
The first round of the playoffs saw Jonah Keri play the Page 42s (co-owned by Rob Neyer and Dave Mlodinoff), as both teams had a share of the wild card with identical 85-77 records. The series went the full seven games, with Jonah Keri ultimately prevailing. Here's what Mlodinoff had to say about Game Seven: "That one really hurt, as we had Wang starting against Jamie Moyer; Moyer somehow outpitched Wang, and we crashed and burned big time."
That gave us final quartet of Jonah Keri, Dave Cokin's Las Vegas Red Sox, Peter King's Montclair Red Sox, and Sam Walker/Nando DiFino's Street Walkers. Since the Montclair Red Sox had the best regular season record, they were matched up with the Street Walkers, owners of the worst record among teams to make the playoffs. The series was much closer than teams' records might have suggested it would be, as it took the Montclair Red Sox the full seven games (including winning Games Six and Seven) to down the Street Walkers. Adding to the excitement, Games One and Two both went eleven innings, with King winning the first, and the Street Walkers taking the second.
To continue a now-familiar motif, the other semi-final series also went seven games, as the Las Vegas Red Sox edged out Jonah Keri. This series may have been the closest, as Dave Cokin's first three wins were all achieved in extra innings. Additionally, over the course of the series, the Las Vegas Red Sox had only five more hits, and one fewer run scored than Jonah Keri.
The two teams that remained after all this mayhem were the Las Vegas Red Sox and the Montclair Red Sox. Assured of a championship, Boston fans were no doubt confused, and spent most of the series trying to figure out how they could still somehow root against the Yankees. Noting Peter King's regular season dominance, oddsmakers had the Montclair Red Sox winning the series in seven.
Montclair took Game One, scoring three runs in the bottom of the 8th to win 5-4. Las Vegas parried by winning Game Two, riding a strong seven-inning, two-run start by Cliff Lee. As the series moved to Las Vegas, Montclair again won in exciting fashion, pulling out an 8-6 victory in ten frames after Las Vegas had rallied to knot up the game at six apiece in the bottom of the 9th on an Adrian Beltre solo homer. Las Vegas handily took Game Four, trouncing Adam Eaton for six runs, keeping the series tied up at two games apiece. The fans again got their money's worth in Game Five, with the lead seesawing back and forth, but Dave Cokin's team ultimately pulled it out in the bottom of the 9th when Carl Crawford hit a single off of Scot Shields to plate Jason Kendall.
As the teams re-crossed the country to go back to Montclair, Red Sox fans were heard complaining about the unfair system that only allowed one Red Sox team to win the trophy. Meanwhile, Peter King, sipping a cup of coffee, gave his team an impassioned motivational speech, and in the visitor's locker room, Dave Cokin tried to use the underdog card one more time in an effort to coax a final victory from his squad.
Game Six was a rematch of the same starting pitchers as in Game Two, but this time Cliff Lee failed to match his prior performance, giving up four runs in six innings, while Joe Blanton only gave up two runs in five. The bullpens took over, and the game was soon tied, as Las Vegas' Huston Street and Kiko Calero combined for three innings and one run, while Montclair's Tim Wakefield gave up three runs in three and two-thirds innings. With the score 5-5 after nine innings, Las Vegas was held scoreless in the 10th by Mark Hendrickson. Montclair also went three up and three down in the bottom of the 10th, at the hands of Ron Villone. With two outs in the top of the 11th inning, Julio Lugo stepped in against Hendrickson. Perhaps the lanky lefty let his mind wander to the bottom of the inning, hoping his team could score a run and send the series to Game Seven, as all the other postseason series had. Perhaps he just did not think Lugo could catch up with his heater. In any case, Lugo crushed a pitch, putting Las Vegas up by a run.
Looking to close out the series, Dave Cokin turned the ball over to J.J. Putz to save the game for Las Vegas, even though Putz had pitched two innings in Game Five, and an inning and two-thirds in Game Four. Leading off for Montclair was Angel Berroa at the bottom of the order, and then Ichiro and Melvin Mora. Noted posteason hero Scott Podsednik was sent in to bat for Berroa, but Putz struck him out. Ichiro stepped to the plate and quickly banged out a single, giving hope to Montclair fans everywhere. Putz then struck out Melvin Mora, leaving the game in the hands of Grady Sizemore. Sizemore proved unequal to the task, as his popped out to give the championship to Dave Cokin's Las Vegas Red Sox.
The winning manager was appropriately humble in victory. Reflecting on his team's performance, Cokin said, "I thought from the outset that I had an okay team that might make a run at a playoff spot, but in no way did I feel I had the strongest squad. The thing I liked best about my team is that it was pretty well balanced with no glaring holes. I benefited from the general parity in our league, and got good pitching at the finish line to get lucky. I'm still more a Roto fan than the Scoresheet style of play, but this was fun and hope we can do this again next season."
As does Dave's charity, The Lied Animal Shelter. The shelter will be receiving a $1,000 donation, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. Speaking of BP, by the way, it should be noted that their best and brightest pretty much fell flat in the league, with the postseason being dominated by the non-BP experts invited into the league.
Congratulations to Dave Cokin for winning the inaugural BP Kings league. Hopefully you had as much fun keeping tabs on the league as the experts did playing in it. Look for a brand new version of the league next year, and don't be surprised if the BP writers work hard in the offseason to avenge their disappointing showing this year.
We asked the participants of the BP Kings League to share some of their thoughts on the season. Many of them were kind enough to respond with lengthy e-mails detailing nearly their every move. Below are some of the comments of King Kaufman (STL Golden Bears) and Nando DiFino (Street Walkers) on what this season of Scoresheet has meant to them.
I learned a lot about baseball--and also maybe a little something about baseball coverage--playing this game. And I learned a lot of it in the very first week. I could see the coverage: This team is all heart! They never give up! They just keep fighting! Etc.!
But there's no heart in this game. It's just a series of baseball events. And I could feel myself anthropomorphizing them (is that the word?), giving them moral shadings, ascribing to them attributes like "grit" and "heart" and "indominability."
I don't know that Scoresheet is necessarily a direct translation to real-life baseball. Maybe those elements do exist. Maybe teams are gritty and clutchy and never-say-die-ish, and they succeed in late-inning situations and win close games because of those attributes. Maybe Scoresheet's series of events look like real baseball because the play-by-play comes out looking similar, but it's missing the flesh-and-blood elements that cause those events in real life.
On the other hand, maybe baseball really is just a series of events, and we ascribe emotional and moral qualities to the plays and the players just as falsely in real life as I was tempted to do in Scoresheet.
I also learned a lot about the role of luck in baseball. I'd always thought of luck as funny bounces, bad hops, bad calls, untimely injuries, that sort of thing. But what is it other than luck, from your point of view, that determines the quality of your opponent?
If we'd been a real-life team, the press would have roasted us for that 1-9 stretch in early September. We choked. All that would have been visible would have been the nine losses. We could have lamely said, "They just played great," and it would have sounded like a bad excuse. But that's what it was, in Scoresheet anyway.
That's the lesson I'd learned when I wrote, after the Tigers beat the Yankees in the playoffs, that from the Yankees point of view, they'd gotten unlucky because they'd run into a Tigers team that, all of a sudden, after sucking the previous week, was playing dynamite baseball. A lot of readers took that to mean the Tigers won by getting lucky, but that's not what I meant. I meant what I said: The Yankees got unlucky. If they'd caught the same Tigers who got swept by the Royals, they'd have won the series easily playing exactly the same way.
Ben updates the Player Forecast Manager, and provides some advice on how to use it.
Many of you wrote in to report two major bugs that came up at various times during development, the first of which dealt with inflation. The problem was sadly as simple as a typo that I made in a variable name during previous development. Thankfully, this bug was caught early on and it wasn't in the production version of the PFM for long.
The second bug concerned the positional adjustment. Many fantasy leagues use something like a two-catcher roster requirement as part of their efforts at realism, and in many cases we had league settings that would cause PFM to give rankings that didn't include the appropriate number of catchers. As an example, there was one user whose 12-team league used two catchers per team; his scoring system, when entered into the PFM with the positional adjustment on, would only produce eight catchers! Needless to say, there were 16 catchers missing from what should have been ranked.
One of the architects of the PFM walks you through the system.
New to PFM this year is support for points leagues, some ease-of-use features for people in a straight draft (as opposed to an auction draft), and the ability to download the statistics to a tab-separated or comma-separated text file. Previously, we didn't have the option to display playing time in the web based PFM (it was an option on the original Excel-based version).
This system has helped many Baseball Prospectus readers win their fantasy leagues, including myself. This year, we have made a few notable improvements to the PFM, so to help those of you who aren't familiar with the tool, I'd like to introduce some basic usage tips, point to useful options, and hopefully get everyone acquainted with one of the best draft tools available.
Now that he's recapped HACKING MASS, Ben takes a look at BP's other contest, the Predictatron.
Previously, we looked at the distribution of picks and got into considerable statistical jargon. This time, we'll keep it lighter and look at how the contest actually transpired. In case you're not familiar with Predictatron, check out the rules. If you had your own entry, you can view the details of your ballot here.
Here is an example of the detailed ballots, this one for our winner, Greg Ferguson:
We have a few perennially valuable hacksters this year, as Darin Erstad, Tony Womack, Cristian Guzman, and Eric Milton form the first group of four players to make the All-Star team and be listed on 300 or more entries. There were four shockers this year, fewer than usual, as Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell, Eric Byrnes and Corey Patterson were listed on a total of 6 entries and accumulated the highest ESPN at catcher, third base, left field and center field. After you sort through the four proven hackers and the four surprises, we have World Series rookie and small ball aficionado Willy Taveras, followed by this year's MVP, Jose Lima. Props go out to the 89 entrants who pegged Lima's campaign at the beginning of the year.
Ben wonders how players in the past have done when they're on the rebound.
I also thought it would be interesting to look at the largest rebounds ever, over 3 or 5 year spans. Although I might revisit the methodology for how we define the rebounds, as noted before to accomodate things like Ken Griffey Jr.'s trend from 1997-2002-2005, I will go ahead and run the data for greatest rebounds using the current methodology. Without further ado, the best 3-year rebounds:
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Jason Giambi and Ken Griffey Jr. won the Comeback Player of the Year Award in their leagues as voted by the fans. Is there a more objective way of handing out the award?
This bounceback comes in three steps: the first peak, the valley and the second peak. In order for a player to qualify for our 2005 Objective Rebound Award (or ORA, because we love acronyms and we're hoping that the winner has that special something about him), the second peak should come in 2005. For the initial run, we're only going to consider players whose first peak came in 2003 and valley came in 2004. Later, we'll open it up to look at larger windows, up to five years from peak to peak. Although the subjective Comeback Awards are given out by league, we'll make no such distinction here, to avoid having to split playing time across leagues.
Overall, the level of the rebound is measured by the distance dropped plus the distance gained back, or (Peak 1 VORP - Valley VORP) + (Peak 2 VORP - Valley VORP). Although this method would leave us open to having some rebounds that appeared large because of one large peak on either end, there are so many seasons in question that the highest rebounds end up having large peaks on each end. Once we start to limit the sample sizes down to three consecutive years ending in 2005, you get some interesting "rebounds." Although we could place limits on these, it would take arbitrary cut-offs, and since it's an inexact science and simply a toy at this point, we can eliminate these by sight as they come up.