Team owners should think twice before approving an expanded playoff structure, since it might be only the players who'll profit.
Bud Selig recently admitted that owners and players are likely to reach an agreement to add two teams to the post-season schedule for 2012, allowing an extra wild-card match-up of one or three games to precede the divisional round. This measure may seem like it would result in extra cash for owners—in fact, that has been widely cited as the reason for its inception—but perhaps counterintuitively, it will likely fatten players’ wallets far more.
In the Nationals' and Orioles' battle for the local fan base, the team that blinks first may stand to gain the most.
This past month, I moved back up I-95 from Washington to Philadelphia, where I’d spent all but the previous eighteen months of my life. There has been only one major-league franchise in the City of Brotherly Love since the Athletics forsook Philly in 1955, but as I discovered during my sojourn in the District, many baseball fans in the DC area have been torn between the Baltimore Orioles, for whom many of them grew up cheering, and the Washington Nationals, who emigrated from Montreal in 2005. Neither team has been good during their years of geographic coexistence, and the metropolitan area has not seen a playoff game since 1997, but both teams have slowly begun to develop the young talent necessary to compete. Although animosity stemming from Orioles owner Peter Angelos’ opposition to a Washington franchise has cost the O’s some fans, many in the DC area have yet to determine their allegiance.
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When Eric Seidman and I introducedSIERA last winter, we ran a number of tests to determine if our theoretical foundation of run prevention led to a superior estimation of pitchers’ skill levels. While SIERA had a solid advantage at predicting future ERA over some ERA estimators and a last decimal-point small lead over xFIP, we ran the tests again after 2010 to ensure that it held a lead going forward. Although the regression formula did not incorporate future ERAs and should not have been biased, it's still important to test the following year to see how well SIERA held up.
Are pitchers able to apply certain skills when a game calls for it?
One of the pitchers I enjoyed watching the most while I was growing up was Tom Glavine. Even though I was a Phillies fan and frequently saw him victimize my favorite team, I was impressed by the expertise he demonstrated on the mound, and how he perfected his craft. Glavine remains the premier example of a pitcher who out-pitched his peripheral statistics; he was greater than the sum of his parts. For the amount of strikeouts, walks, and ground balls that Glavine got in his career, he should never have been able to keep runs off the scoreboard as well as he did.
Home teams are winning their games at an increased rate over the last few years, but is it a trend that's likely to continue?
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how home teams had improved their performance in the last three years. After winning about 54 percent of games consistently for the last 60 years, home teams have won 55.5 percent of games in the last three seasons. Although it is just a 1.5 percent increase, there has not been a three-year period with home team winning percentage this high in 60 years, so there may be a noticeable reason for the shift.
Is the Phillies' right-hander an undervalued commodity?
From the ashes of the Tweet-pocalypse of rumors that culminated in Cliff Lee’s surprise five-year deal with the Phillies, there arose another batch of rumors about how the Phillies would make room for Lee’s salary. The Phillies are now committed to spend about $163 million in 2011 based on their current roster, which is $21 million more than they spent in 2010. The Phillies have made it known that they are trying to move salary to make this work, and it is no secret that they are trying to move Joe Blanton.
Using DIPS Theory to understand a pitcher's skills.
I have always loved pitchers’ duels. One of my favorite childhood baseball memories is watching Curt Schilling throw a complete game shutout for the Phillies in a 2-0 win against the Blue Jays in Game Five of the 1993 World Series, with the Phillies facing elimination. I was only 12 years old at the time, and I did not know anything about sabermetrics, but Schilling appeared majestic as he pitched yet another brilliant start in what would become a magnificent playoff career. He only surrendered five singles that night and extended the series one more day.
Ground-ball pitchers have several skills that traditional statistics do not account for.
There are two more important reasons why Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average's (SIERA) is so successful at predicting the following year's ERA. First, most other Defense-Independent Pitching Statistics, like FIP and xFIP, assume that pitchers have no control over their Batting Average on Ball in Play (BABIP), but we know that they do have some control. I have shown before that pitchers with high strikeout totals and low ground-ball rates tend to allow fewer hits per ball in play, and thus lower BABIPs. Of course, BABIP is subject to so much luck that it is nearly impossible to discern a pitcher's true ability to prevent hits on balls in play from his historical BABIP. That is why last year's FIP is much better at predicting this year's ERA than last year's ERA is. It strips ERA of BABIP (and sequencing) altogether and assumes league-average BABIP for all pitchers and random sequencing.
Why are home teams winning more now than in previous eras?
When I wrote my five-partseriesonhome-fieldadvantage in 2009, I noticed that it had been steady at about 54 percent for over half a century. It was 53.9 percent in the 1950s, 54.0 percent in the ‘60s, 53.8 percent in the ‘70s, 54.1 percent in the ’80s, 53.5 percent in the ‘90s, and 54.2 percent in the 2000s. However, in the last three years, we have seen home teams win 55.5 percent of the 7,288 games played, a very statistically significant difference. Does this suggest that a large change has actually taken place, or is it just a coincidence? If a change has taken place, what is causing it?
Examining past MVP and Cy Young winners and the differences between their winning seasons and non-winning seasons.
With the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards announced in the last two weeks, we saw a first-time MVP in each league, a first-time American League Cy Young winner and a National League Cy Young winner who had won the American League Cy Young Award seven years prior. Winning consecutive MVP or Cy Young awards is a rarity, though we have seen recent repeats by Albert Pujols and Tim Lincecum. In the last 18 years (1993-2010, which encompasses the last two rounds of expansion), we have seen just six of 36 MVP awards go to the previous year’s winner, and just nine Cy Young Awards to the previous recipient. But the best hitter or best pitcher in the league is usually not a different person every year.
Taking a look at what goes into some teams outplaying or underplaying their expected records.
In 2007, the Angels won 94 games despite a third order win total of 86. In 2008, the Angels won 100 games despite a third order win total of just 84. In 2009, the Angels won 97 games with just a third order win total of 87. Going into 2010, we were left wondering whether the Angels were the luckiest team in the world or whether they were doing something that made them appear to be a slightly above average team but actually among the best in the league. A clue was thrown our way in 2010 when the Angels came back to earth, dipping to a record of 80-82. This might have resolved the issue if the Angels third order win total had been more than 72, because even a mediocre team beat the stuffing out of its third order record! The Adjusted Standings that we publish under our Statistics tab here at Baseball Prospectus are designed to give fans a clue about how lucky teams have been, but the Angels’ performances have thrown some major question marks our way in recent years about the methodology of those standings.
Is having pitch data available helpful in determining a pitcher's walk rates?
Last week, I looked at Predicting Strikeouts with Swing and Whiff Rates, breaking down pitch-by-pitch data to see if things like swinging-strike rates could provide more enlightenment when combined with the previous year’s strikeout rate to predict future strikeout rate. The answer was mostly negative. This was primarily due to two reasons. One was that much of the data on pitch locations is poor, and ensuing discussions highlighted just how poor it is. The other reason, however, is that strikeout rate is the quickest statistic to stabilize over small samples, so one year of strikeout data does a very good job of predicting subsequent strikeout data already. However, this week I will look at walk rate, and attempt to determine whether this data is more useful in predicting future walk rates. There is certainly evidence of value added in this case, far more so than with predicting strikeouts.