This year's World Series may be the latest ever on the calendar, but it's actually in for a bit of luck as far as the weather's concerned. Current forecasts suggest that we shouldn't see any temperatures worse than the mid-40s, and it's very possible it will be in the 50s most of the time.
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Which teams and which players will get the least and most benefit of the few venues in play for October baseball?
A park factor, as used here, is a measure of how a team's home field changes their statistics. It results from a combination of many factors-the distance and height of the outfield fences, angles, foul territory, visibility, field surface, and weather, to name a few. It is not the case that the Yankees have a high park factor for home runs (PF) because the Yankees hit a lot of home runs. To get a high PF, you need to hit and allow more home runs in your home games than you do in your road games. An average effect on HR is written as '100'; a better-than-average park will score something like 120, which means they get a boost 20 percent above average, while a poor hitters' park would score 90, or 10 percent below average. Players are also graded on who has the best and worst fit to their stadium-not on how well they hit home/road, but how well their profile matches or doesn't match what the park gives.
Translating the performance of the latest Cuban to skip out on Castroland to answer whether he ranks with this winter's top free agents.
There's been another defection from the land of Castro. Aroldis Chapman is a 21-year-old Cuban emigré-and we're more certain about that than we are for most Cuban players-who walked out of a Dutch hotel in July while playing in a tournament. Given the likelihood of a bidding war as frenzied as the one involving Jose Contreras, he's someone you should have on your radar as a pitcher who may well attract as much interest as the top free agents available to your friendly neighborhood ballclub.
He's a bit of a stringbean at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, and he throws left-handed, which is always attractive, but what puts him truly over the top is that he throws 100 mph. Here are his actual stats in Cuba for the last four years:
Between shifts in team's playoff odds and projected final win totals, who gained (or lost) the most?
In prior years, the various versions of Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Reports were slow to respond to changes in lineups. All of them required the team to start playing differently-sometimes as a result of trades or injuries-before any change would be seen in the playoff odds of the various contenders, and those changes would be pretty seriously depressed by the weight of all the games that had come before.
This year, as a direct result of changes in the way we're running our depth charts, for one of the versions we have done away with any feedback from actual team performance in setting the win percentage that drives the playoff odds program.* The PECOTA-based version of our playoff odds is being entirely set by our projections of player performance. The rates of player performance come from the pre-season PECOTAs, but modified to include some information about how the player has performed so far this year, which Eric Seidman discussed in an Unfiltered post last week. The volume of performance is set by the depth charts, which ultimately means by me, since I've taken the final say on all changes to the depth chart master program. For the PECOTA-based playoff odds, a trade or injury has an immediate impact on the team's expected performance-we can anticipate the change in team performance without waiting for the signal to appear, and its effects on the post-season odds is immediate.
A look at the teams in the tourney, and a top-to-bottom appraisal of their chances for success.
Three years have passed since Japan and Korea stole the thunder of the first World Baseball Classic; Korea went undefeated until they were beaten by Japan in the semi-finals, while Japan escaped three losses to beat Cuba in the final. This year's tourney features the same 16 teams that played in 2006, again grouped into four pools of four teams each. Unlike in 2006, though, teams will not play a round-robin tournament, but will instead play in a double-elimination format, with the top two teams from each group advancing. That will create two more four-team groups, who will again play a double-elimination tournament with the top two teams advancing from each group. The final four will then play single-elimination games to decide the winner.
The overwhelming majority of players in the WBC either do now, or have, played in the US major or minor leagues, for whom we have extensive, reliable data that describe their contributions pretty effectively. We also have good data for the leagues in Cuba, Japan, and Korea, so the players from those countries and leagues aren't entirely mysterious to us. That still leaves four teams-China, Taiwan, South Africa, and the Netherlands-with a significant number of players who have not played in a "top" league. Not surprisingly, they rate as the four weakest teams in the tournament, and were a combined 2-10 in the 2006 tourney.
How long can revised expectations for two big-name Japanese free agents go?
While it may seem like a wave of Japanese players have come across the Pacific to the US, the numbers aren't so large when you start isolating them by position. There have only been three pitchers in the last 10 years who came from Japan to the US to pitch at least 120 innings in a major league season. Those three: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hiroki Kuroda, and Kazuhisa Ishii. Another notable Japanese starter-Kei Igawa-came to the US with the intention of starting, but he failed to make the grade. This year, though, we have two more Japanese starters here to try their luck: Kenshin Kawakami with the Braves, and Koji Uehara with the Orioles.
Translating statistics between different leagues is a difficult enough task under the best of circumstances; translating across different cultures is even harder. A funny thing happened as I was researching this piece and zeroed in on Japanese starting pitchers-I came to the conclusion that there is a substantial difference in the performance of relief pitchers who worked in both Japan and the US, and the performance of starting pitchers.
Skip crystal balls, just dive into what our first cut on projecting the season says as far as this year's likely standings.
Now that the depth charts are out, we have a chance to do a first run of the Playoff Odds chart. The Playoff Odds chart-and I am aware that, strictly speaking, they aren't presented as odds-is a system that we run during the season. We use the team's record and the actual schedule to play out the rest of the season.
In this case, we're playing the entire season from day one, and we're using the depth-chart projections to set the team's strength (though since the depth charts also use a strength-of-schedule adjustment to calculate the records you see, I had to temporarily undo that). We can set a win percentage for each game, and by essentially rolling dice in the computer, we can determine who wins or loses each game. We can do that for an entire season, or a dozen seasons, or a million seasons-and yes, our usual number is a cool million. We can and do play around with the team's strength, knowing that it's ultimately just an estimate, and that the real team may turn out to be better (or worse) than we think.
Translating the performances of the latest crop of forbidden fruit from Castro-country and two high-profile imports from Japan's major leagues.
In the past month, two Japanese pitchers have been signed by major league teams-Kenshin Kawakami, now with the Braves, and Koji Uehara, signed up by the Orioles. We've also heard of major league interest in some recent Cuban émigrés-Yadel Marti and Yasser Gomez, as well as Dayan Viciedo, who signed with the White Sox in November. Let's focus a translational microscope on each of these players, with an eye towards giving you an idea of what's in store.
Kenshin Kawakami DOB: 6/22/75 (33) Height/Weight: 5-10/200 Bats/Throws:R/R Team: Chunichi Dragons, Central League, NPB
The cases for and against Bucky Walters, Joe "Flash" Gordon, Mickey Vernon, Vern "Junior" Stephens, and Allie "Superchief" Reynolds
We conclude our chronological capsule look at the potential Hall of Fame players who will be voted on by the Veterans Committee at the winter meetings in December. These capsules are meant to be non-judgmental-the authors are laying out the arguments for and against each player, not necessarily endorsing those arguments. (Part One.)
The cases for and against Deacon White, Bill Dahlen, Sherry Magee, Carl Mays, and Wes Ferrell.
On Monday, the Hall of Fame released its list of 10 finalists for the Veterans Committee ballot in the category of players who began their careers before 1943. The list will be voted on December 12, with players needing to appear on three-quarters of 12 ballots to achieve enshrinement. Below, part one of a two-part voting guide to the candidates, arranged in chronological order.
The top moundmen from the winter leagues, and what it might mean for some as far as their futures are concerned.
Pitching performances are, in many ways, harder to evaluate than hitting performances, and even more so in the winter leagues. The biggest problem is the restricted range of performance-the difference between the best and worst pitchers, in terms of runs per game, is only about half the range of performance for hitters. Add in that their performances are more concentrated-which leads to individual particularly bad or good days on the mound-and also more dependent on which teams and in which parks you face (because the assumption of "league average" is a lot less valid for pitchers), and you've got a veritable soup to wade through.
There's also the problem of selecting the right metric, and all of the problems I noted above also show up, regardless of whether you want to base your evaluation on runs or on run components. Run-based translations generally give a better picture of the reality that actually happened, while the component-based measures are better at showing what the underlying reality was that the real reality came from. Well, at least I think so, since I haven't finished building my interdimensional transporter to see what happened in all of the other winter leagues in the multiverse. I guess you could say I infer that from being more stable from one year to the next.
A look at the top offensive producers from the winter leagues, and what it might mean for some as far as their shots at making major league rosters.
As the Caribbean Series comes to a close, we can take a look back at who the best players were this winter, translating everything to the same level. It's a fun exercise, seeing who did well and who didn't, but as we found a couple of years ago, it has very little meaning on a player's future performance.
The three leagues this year rated as being a little stronger than they did when I ran them a few years ago. In 2003, the Dominican Winter League rated as the strongest of the then-four leagues, approaching the PCL in terms of quality. The Venezuelan League rated as the weakest back then, although it was still a little above the Texas League qualitatively, so the four were actually pretty tightly bunched. This year the Dominican, Venezuelan, and Mexican Pacific Leagues were even more tightly grouped, with all of them ranked just barely under the Triple-A leagues. Two reasons come to mind to explain this, assuming that it isn't just random fluctuation. One is that the demise of the Puerto Rican League could have funneled some talent into the remaining leagues. The other is that I incorporated the entire playoff system into the stats, whereas before I only looked at the regular season. The playoffs tend to draw the major leaguers in, guys who had otherwise appeared in only a token number of regular-season games.