Colin reviews two stats presentations from SABR's Friday schedule.
Two stats presentations on the first day of SABR.
The first is a WPA-based look at the most exciting games of all time, based on WPA adjusted for “odds of winning the World Series.” Methodology discussion was sparse to non-existent, bulk of talk is a list of games itself. Without any detail on methodology, hard to critique or approve of the methodology, and a dry recitation of quote-unquote “exciting” games is not especially exciting in and of itself.
A review of the keynote address at this week's SABR convention in Philadelphia.
It may seem incongruous to some to have David Montgomery, president of the very traditional (and sometimes openly disdainful of sabermetrics) Philadelphia Phillies address the crowd at SABR. But it really shouldn’t. Sabermetrics is named in homage to SABR, but while Bill James’ admiration for SABR is returned by many of its members, it is a very traditional organization as well. Its membership skews very old – even older than the 2013 Phillies, believe it or not. And while you’ll find a diversity of interests at SABR (including some interested in sabermetrics, in fact), on the whole it skews heavily toward an appreciation of baseball history. The Phillies too share an appreciation for baseball’s historical record, apparently up to and including using it as a reason to sign Delmon Young. So it really is a good fit.
Montgomery opened by welcoming everyone to “his city” of Philadelphia, saying, "This is a very passionate sports town, which is great if you happen to work in sports. Well for the most part, it’s great.” He got more than a few laughs from that. He then went on to discuss the “cycles” of the Phillies, talking about the high points of the franchise (including the recent run of success. He did not elucidate where the 2013 Phillies were in the cycle, however.)
The Hit List Factor and Adjusted Hit List Factor explained.
This is the city, Baseball Prospectus, The Internet. I work here. I carry a spreadsheet. My partner’s Bill Gannon. My name’s Wyers. We were working out of Feature Focus when we got a call about a Daily Hit List.
Have we been underrating big-market, high-payroll teams?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the distribution of team wins, and the discovery that the distribution may in fact be bimodal, not normal as one might expect.
One of the predictions that came from this theory was that teams right at .500 would, counterintuitively, tend to regress away from the mean. So one thing we can do is actually check to see if the real world behaves the way we expect it to. I took all teams from 1969 on with even numbers of games and split them into “halves” of even-number games. I use scare-quotes for halves since in order to boost the sample size, I split into increments of two and kept any pair where both “halves” were within 20 games of each other. Then I looked at teams that were exactly .500 in the “before” sample— 716 teams total—and saw what they did afterward:
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The Phillies can survive Ryan Howard's contract, but can they survive the GM who gave it to him?
Some baseball teams are disappointing by strange twists of fate. Some are disappointing by design. Not because they’re designed to perform poorly (although that happens, too), but because they’re given expectations contrary to reality, and when reality diverges from expectations, they continue to cling to the expectations.
The 2013 Phillies are a team modestly below .500. Given a preseason forecast of a basically .500 team, this shouldn’t be a terrible shock—baseball is a game filled with randomness, after all. But to view the Phillies as a real disappointment requires you to compare them to their run of excellence from 2007 through 2011, rather than the team they are now. General manager Ruben Amaro’s expectations, then, seem weirdly out of date, in more ways than one. When asked about the player who will most likely define Amaro’s career as a GM, he responded succinctly:
If .500 is average, where are all the teams with .500 records?
Sometimes, baseball research happens because you go out looking for something and you find it. Other times, it happens because you go off looking for something else and you trip over something far more interesting. This is the latter. While looking through historic team records for another project I was working on, I came across an interesting puzzle—there were far fewer teams exactly at .500 than I would have expected. I thought maybe it was a wacky feature of the sample set I was using, but I expanded my search to nearly 50 years of Major League Baseball, and the same puzzle was still staring me in the face. So I was left with three questions: Was what I was seeing really there? Why was it happening? And what did it mean?
One of the best parts of working at Baseball Prospectus is the ability to pester the staff email list with really bizarre questions. Some people use this power to ask questions where they don’t know the answer. Those people are probably much more well-liked than I am by the other staffers. I, instead, ask questions to which I already know the answer and request that people make wild guesses without doing any research first. I do this because sometimes when I’m looking at data, it helps me to get an unbiased perspective of what someone might expect the data to look like. But to get that, you need to ask people who haven’t seen the data, because once you’ve been staring at the data for too long you expect the data to look like the data.
A walkthrough of all the info available on BP's player cards.
It’s time for another episode of Feature Focus! Now this is the last time we’re doing the home game… I know, I know.
Oh, wait, that’s the episode of Press Your Luck where TV game shows were broken forever. Instead, we’re going to talk about the BP player cards. A key note is that I’m showing off the full cards, including subscriber-only features, so if you don’t see all of these things, you may want to get yourself a subscription.
Welcome to another installment of Feature Focus. I’m your host, Colin Wyers. When last we checked in with our intrepid he… oh, sorry, wrong spiel. The point of Feature Focus is to put a spotlight on what’s available at Baseball Prospectus and help guide you around.
With the trade deadline coming up soon, a lot of people are going to be wondering about player salaries and contracts. We have two products that can help with this.
Who's costing their team the most with their situational outs in 2013?
Occasionally I get asked why such-and-such a player has a True Average that seems out of line with what their OPS (or some other offensive rate) would suggest. There's a lot of potential answers to that -- TAv is a bit more precise in how it weights various events, and it has park and league quality adjustments. But I find that most people understand those answers pretty intuitively. There's one that seems to confuse people a bit more often.